WASHINGTON (Nov. 2, 2004)—Associate Editor Chris Johns, 53, has been named editor in chief of National Geographic magazine, succeeding William L. (Bill) Allen, who will retire at the end of the year. The announcement was made by John Griffin, National Geographic Society executive vice president and president of the Magazine Group. The appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2005, and makes Johns only the ninth full-time editor of National Geographic magazine in the Society’s 116-year history.
“Chris Johns embodies National Geographic. He brings talent, excellent editorial instincts, great passion and leadership skills to his new role. His 18 years of field experience combined with his recent tenure as associate editor make him the ideal person to succeed the legendary Bill Allen. I’m confident that Chris will build on Bill’s legacy and lead us into the future with strength and vision,” Griffin said.
“I am humbled and privileged to lead this great magazine and build on the solid foundation laid by Bill Allen. We have an outstanding staff, motivated by the passionate belief that through thoughtful, honest and exciting photography and writing, we can make a genuine difference. We look forward to taking a new generation with us as we explore the world,” Johns responded.
A 19-year veteran of National Geographic magazine, Johns’ assignments have taken him to every corner of the planet, from Anchorage to Africa. Named one of the world’s 25 most important photographers by American Photo magazine in 2003, he became a contract photographer for National Geographic magazine in 1985 and joined the magazine staff in 1995. He was named associate editor in December 2003.
A native of Medford, Ore., Johns began his career in photojournalism while studying animal science at Oregon State University. He graduated with a degree in technical journalism and a minor in agriculture. He worked as a teaching assistant as he studied for a master’s degree in photojournalism at the University of Minnesota. In 1975 Johns became a staff photographer at the Topeka Capital-Journal and in 1979 he was named National Newspaper Photographer of the Year. In 1980 he joined the Seattle Times as a picture editor and special projects photographer. Three years later he became a freelance photographer, working largely for Life, Time and National Geographic magazines.
In addition to his magazine work, he has photographed and written four books, “Valley of Life: Africa’s Great Rift,” “Hawaii’s Hidden Treasures,” “Our Inviting Eastern Parklands” and “Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa.” He wrote the foreword for “In Focus: National Geographic’s Greatest Portraits,” published in October 2004 by National Geographic Books. Johns lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children on a farm in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Bill Allen retires after more than 35 years with National Geographic, the last 10 as editor in chief of the flagship publication. The eighth full-time editor of National Geographic magazine, Allen has written, photographed or picture-edited for scores of books, educational products and articles for National Geographic.
During Allen’s tenure, National Geographic magazine has won numerous national awards and expanded internationally. Available only in English as recently as 1995, NGM is now enjoyed in 25 local-language editions in more than 2 million homes, in addition to its vast English-language circulation of nearly 7 million. In May 2000 the publication was awarded the most distinguished prize in magazine journalism, the National Magazine Award for General Excellence for magazines with a circulation of more than 1 million.
The magazine’s editorial has made headlines of its own, tackling such significant and timely issues as global warming, 21st-century human slavery, the crisis in Sudan, India’s Untouchables and weapons of mass destruction.
Allen joined the staff as a summer intern in the Special Publications division and immediately proved his skills as an illustrations editor for the 1971 book, “Those Inventive Americans.” In 1985 he became an illustrations editor for National Geographic magazine, and his first assignment was the discovery of the Titanic by Robert Ballard. Allen was promoted from senior assistant editor to associate editor in 1992 and was named editor in chief on Jan. 1, 1995.
Prior to joining National Geographic, Allen served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, working as an information officer in Korea’s demilitarized zone in the late 1960s. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and currently serves on the boards of the National Geographic Society, National Geographic Education Foundation, National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Institute of Nautical Archaeology, the Teton Science School and the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund.
A native of Tyler, Texas, Allen attended Georgia Tech and graduated from Louisiana State University with a bachelor’s degree in government. He and his wife, Carol, live in Alexandria, Va.
National Geographic magazine is the official journal of the National Geographic Society, one of the world’s largest nonprofit educational and scientific organizations. The magazine has a circulation of around 9 million that spans every country around the globe. It is sent each month to National Geographic members and is also available on newsstands for $4.95 a copy. Single copies can be ordered by calling (800) NGS-LINE, also the number to call to apply for membership of the Society.