|Bill Allen was completely stunned when he got the word that he was being chosen to replace National Geographic Editor Bill Graves upon the latters retirement at the end of 1994. I had never even considered it until that moment, he says. My response was very eloquent, something like, Hum-a-hum-a-hum-a-hum-a, What?|
Allen held a number of jobs at the Society on his way to the Editors office, starting with a stint as a summer intern. Once on staff full time, he served in such positions as illustrations editor, managing editor for World magazine, assistant director for Special Publications, and deputy editor for NGM. He has been in the English-language editions top job for seven and a half years, leading a staff of some 130 people. In addition, anywhere from 100 to 150 contributing writers, photographers, and artists are assigned to projects at any given time. All do their part to produce a publication with a circulation of close to eight million, one that the Editor defines as enticing and exhilarating.
The magazines goal is to provide a background and context for the critical issues we all face: from world affairs, human health, and environmental challenges, to population and important scientific discoveries, he says. But we also strive to produce a publication that people want to read simply because its fun, informative, and beautiful in words and pictures.
Seeing that goal met each month gives Allen great satisfaction. The most rewarding thing about this job is seeing the first bound copy of the issue every month, he says. Each page reflects the extraordinary work of our staff and contributors. It hits me at that point that we have the best photographers, writers, editors, researchers, and support staff in the whole world. Were able to work with the best experts and the most knowledgeable people in every field. Its overwhelming to see what the staff is doing every month.
Each assignment produces such a wealth of material that the Editor is constantly faced with an impossible dilemma. The biggest challenge for me is trying to get all of the words, photographs, and articles that I would like to into the number of pages allocated every month, Allen says. I always want more. Im sure if somebody waved a magic wand and gave me twice as many pages, Id just turn around and want that many more again.
|The Editor shared his five favorite places in the United States, a country he values for its open spaces and variety of geography as well as for its mosaic of generous and open people with a traditional can-do attitude. Here are the places that speak to his soul: |
1. The View from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
At night, this is one of the great views of the world. Every couple of years I go there to stand at the shrine of Abraham Lincoln, the man who saved the Union. I look down the Mall at the Washington Monument, a tribute to our first President, and then beyond to the glowing white dome of the U.S. Capitol, the symbol of our representative democracy. That view gives me goose bumps and brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. Its the embodiment of what Alexis de Tocqueville said about the young United States in 1831: Here, the people rule.
2. Californias Coast at Big Sur
Its worth crossing the country to head to the West Coast and experience the drive on California Route 1, which runs along Big Surs extraordinarily rugged coast. Right beside you, the crash of waves blends with the bark of sea lions. Sea otters raft in the shallows. And the light is great! The road is very twisty, so its more fun being a passenger than a driver if you want to absorb all the views. Unless youre in a Ferrari, however
3. Bryce Canyon, Utah
Im from Texas, so I have a soft spot in my heart for the magnificent vistas of the Southwest. The changing light constantly transforms the canyons throughout the day. The red rock spires form an impossibly intircate maze of a landscape that tops the work of the greatest sculptors. As early settler Ebenezer Bryce said, Its a hell of a place to lose a cow!
4. Mauis Haleakala Crater, Hawaii
To make it up the mountain in time to see the sunrise, you have to drive up the winding road in the dark. At that time, its very cold at 10,000 feet (3,050 meters). But the pay-off comes when all of a sudden the sun begins to stream over the edge of the crater, illuminating the ancient black lava flows and the smaller craters inside the caldera. Black sand sparkles as the brilliant sun rises into the clean, clear sky. When that happens, I can almost hear Handels Hallelujah Chorus.
5. Glaciers in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
The largest glacier system in the country is found here. The power of these sheets of ice rolling out of the magnificent mountains of the University Range is breathtaking. You can see traces of soil and ground rock inside as they travel down. Its a magnificent, powerful scene, one thats truly hard to beat.
|Photographs by Craig Aurness (CORBIS left), Bill Vanrie (CORBIS center), and Daniel Chester French (CORBIS right).