National Geographic : 1966 Oct
to the press brought up-to-date geographic infor mation to millions of newspaper readers, and School Bulletins informed the young in terms they could understand. One of the first things the young Editor had learned was to trust his own editorial judgment. A paper from a distinguished professor of geography had proved, in Gilbert Grosvenor's charitable words, "exceedingly hard to digest," and he had taken it to Dr. Bell for his opinion. That learned gentleman confessed that much of the paper baf fled him too, but advised its publication because of the high academic standing of its author. An avalanche of protest followed, and Gilbert Grosvenor made a vow that thereafter the maga zine would publish no sentence not readily under stood. Technical matter, he decided, could and should be published in separate scientific papers. No Patience With Obscurity or Pretense Gilbert Grosvenor had no patience with murky thinking. "What does this mean?" he would pencil sternly beside a paragraph long on pretentious words but short on clarity of thought. Bombast bored him. "Come down off your soap box," he said firmly to writers carried away by their opinions to the point of speechifying in print. "Stick to the facts. Our readers can be trusted to form their own opinions." "People like to learn," he once observed, "but dislike the feeling of being taught." Use a long word when a short one would do as well, and the manuscript would come back from his paper-piled office with the offending word circled and labeled: "This is a jawbreaker." Qualify a statement with the lazy phrase "is said to" and you would be called into his presence and informed: "The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE does not publish hearsay. Either it is a fact or it is not. Find out." If you came to consider yourself an expert on a field of science or a country and affected esoteric terms or high-flown language, Gilbert Grosvenor would puncture your inflated ego and bring you down to earth. Snobbish use of foreign words with out translation was, and is, similarly taboo, on the grounds that no one knows every language and it is our business to make ourselves understood. Once he spelled it out for me patiently: "If you War loomed over China in June, 1937, as the Grosvenors gazed on these smiling Buddhas, 1,500 year-old guardians of peace at the Yun Kang caves. Within a month Japan and China were at war. Shortly, a National Geographic botanical expedi tion in China sent out an article and pictures for publication in the Society's magazine, giving a timely understanding of the terrain of conflict. GILBERT H. GROSVENOR© N.G .S .