"Africa is a place full of surprises," says Johns, who later this month will oversee the publication of a rare single-topic edition of National Geographic--this one focused on the alluring but often troubled continent. "It's a place of incredible diversity, not only in landscape but in voice, and it's the voices of people that have always drawn me back."
Hitting newsstands just before Sept. 1, this edition of the magazine--which took nearly two years to complete--also forgoes the use of a photograph on its cover for only the second time since cover photos became its signature in 1943.
With stories on Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, an oil pipeline running between Chad and Cameroon and the effects of the plague of AIDS, the issue utilizes several innovative techniques, including printing the fruit of a 7-month photographic flyover survey of the continent to photographically document the state of both human and animal life there, which Johns believes will be enticing to advertisers in its authority.
"What makes advertisers want to be in National Geographic is the fact that the magazine is relevant and current," says Johns. "It's a magazine that looks at things in a surprising and entertaining way."
The magazine's release will occur a little less than a month after the National Geographic Channel and the Fox Networks Group announced the creation of the new NGC HD network, a joint venture set to debut in early 2006, expected to build on the former's 55 million current subscribers.