Not Just a Magazine, a Lifestyle  | American Journalism Review
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From AJR,   June/July 2004

Not Just a Magazine, a Lifestyle   

By Jen Slingland
Jen Slingland is an AJR editorial assistant.     

National Geographic, apparently not satisfied to merely bring news of the exotic into people's living rooms, now wants those homes themselves to incorporate the magazine's faraway flair: It has come out with a line of furniture.

The marketing venture, which debuted in April at the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina, is supposed to whet people's appetites to travel and discover the world.

The society came up with the idea after convening a focus group on how it could "make people think about the geographic environment and the live that same lifestyle as [our] photographers do," but in their own homes, says John Dumbacher, the society's senior vice president of licensing.

With over 35 years of experience and a portfolio that spans more than 120 different countries, freelance photographer Jim Stanfield helped inspire the furniture, which is being produced by Lane Home Furnishings. Stanfield and some of the magazine's other explorers and photographers took photos of their own homes, of trinkets they had picked up around the world, then Lane used those photos to create the furniture.

The collection, which includes tables, beds, dressers and accessories, comes in two motifs, "West Indies" and "Tropic Winds." People could store their National Geographic issues inside the mahogany armoire, inspired by ancient Cambodian culture, with detailed engravings mimicking the Angkor Wat temple's ancient stone carvings. A poster bed, part of the West Indies collection, might help an urban dweller dream of the "lapping waves of the Caribbean Sea."

"I thought [the new line] was absolutely fantastic because they were putting things on the market I had admired my entire life," Stanfield says.

Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's ethics faculty might not be first in line to redecorate. "This is being done at a time when the line between news and advertising and news and marketing is fuzzier than ever," she says, dismayed that National Geographic decided to "hop on the bandwagon."

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