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The Sad Story of Canadian Geographic

Canadian Geographic magazine has been published for 85 years by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (RCGS), a self-described "iconic non-profit organization" founded in 1929. Through the years, the magazine has established a respected brand as a sober periodical with a mandate "to explore and celebrate Canada's natural and human wonders."

But according to several former employees, Canadian Geographic has, under its current publisher and governance, strayed from that mission. In a series of posts, we will examine the magazine itself, its corporate-sponsored educational products and its connections to power in Ottawa.

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"I asked that my name be taken off the masthead, and soon after, I resigned," says Alan Morantz, former senior editor of Canadian Geographic magazine.

Morantz, who worked on contract at the magazine for over three years, says that management abandoned the editorial policy of identifying sponsored content with an article in its December 2012 issue about polar research.

The research being featured was an initiative of the Weston Foundation, who also sponsored the article, according to Morantz.

"Previously we would have labeled a feature like this 'Special Section, in partnership with the Weston Foundation,'" he recalls. "But the disclaimer was changed right before publication to 'Special Report on Northern Research.' You don't take money from a source," he tells CANADALAND, "and pass off the resulting work as journalism."

The archived version of the article on Canadian Geographic's website contains no disclaimer at all.

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Author and magazine journalist Curtis Gillespie says he had a similar experience, after which, he tells CANADALAND, "I vowed never to have anything to do with Canadian Geographic ever again,....


Kurt Kadatz, a spokesperson for the Calgary Stampede, confirms to CANADALAND that the Stampede entered into a partnership with Canadian Geographic in 2012 that included "content in Cdn Geo."

Gillespie says he expressed concern about the arrangement, but was promised editorial independence.

He visited the Calgary Stampede Ranch, spoke to a livestock handler, a veterinarian, academics, and activists, and delivered a thoughtful piece that was generally sympathetic to the Stampede. He did however learn that the Stampede bred horses specifically to be used as bucking broncos. These horses were regularly culled; those that didn't buck wildly enough were "disposed of." Gillespie included the detail in his piece, "Rodeo under Scrutiny."


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I wasn't aware of the sponsorship issue, but I have been getting Canadian Geographic for at least 15 years and I still find it to be an excellent magazine. It has more of an environmental orientation now than it did in the past. That might bother some people and please others. It is OK with me, although I generally like their regional stories better than their energy/environment stories.
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