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What is National Geographic?

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  • Written By: Kathy Hawkins
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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National Geographic is a well-known monthly magazine that has been published by the nonprofit National Geographic Society since 1888. The magazine has an international circulation close to nine million, and is read by over fifty million people every month. The magazine is known for its distinctive yellow border, in-depth articles about wildlife and the environment, and stunning nature photography.

The articles in National Geographic deal with a wide range of subjects, some political in nature, and most relating to the natural world and its intersection with modern culture. A 2007 issue of the magazine featured articles about the establishment of the Jamestown colony 400 years ago and its effect on the environment, a story about a slum in Mumbai, and an account of the proposed wall across part of the US-Mexico border.

Typical stories in this magazine are international in scope and timely to today's issues. Even during the Cold War period of the 1980s, the magazine was dedicated to producing quality articles on the culture of the Soviet Union and China, so that readers could better understand these societies. The magazine is also famous for its detailed maps of various regions, which are so accurate that they have been used as resources by the US Government.

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One of National Geographic's most famous photographs is a 1985 cover of a young Afghan girl with green eyes. In 2002, the woman in the photograph, Sharbat Gula, was tracked down by the magazine again for another photograph, and was featured in a television documentary. The National Geographic Society established a fund in Gula's name, to which thousands of readers contributed, to build a girls' school in Afghanistan.

The National Geographic Society publishes numerous other magazines in addition to its flagship publication, including National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Traveler, and National Geographic Adventure. The Society also owns a television station that produces documentaries about nature, wildlife, and international culture.

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