We subscribe to the National Geographic magazine, which we love. Someone told me that Editor Chris Johns is a Southern Oregon native. Is that true?
— T.J., Medford
It's a true local-boy-makes-good story, T.J.
Chris Johns, a 1969 graduate of Crater High School who was born in Medford, became editor-in-chief of National Geographic, with a circulation of about 9 million, on Jan. 1, 2005. He has a fan club here at SYA headquarters.
A few other Southern Oregonians have worked at National Geographic as well, including Bert Fox, who was a Mail Tribune photographer and photo editor in the late 1970s and early '80s. He moved on to other papers, and ended up as a photo editor at National Geographic until his retirement last year.
Johns, in an interview with the Mail Tribune just before he assumed the top-dog slot at the magazine, talked about his local roots.
"I've never forgotten I'm a product of the Rogue River Valley — it shaped my life," he said.
Born to George and Joanne Johns of Central Point, Chris Johns was active in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, rising to state FFA presidency. Like most youths, he played sports, fished and hiked. He and his buddies also enjoyed riding dirt bikes.
"We used to race around on our motorcycles up on Johns Peak and Old Stage Road, exploring trails and logging roads," he recalled.
After graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in technical journalism and a minor in agriculture, he earned a master's degree in photojournalism at the University of Minnesota. He shot photos for newspapers for several years, then traveled the globe as a National Geographic photographer for about two decades.
The challenge for the magazine is to explore that connection around the globe, he said.
"The world is changing at an unprecedented pace," he said. "It's an incredible time to be a journalist, to tell the stories that can directly affect all our lives, from Medford to Capetown to Beijing and all the communities in between."
Johns lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children on a farm in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.
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