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Lunch with Trailblazers Susan Goldberg & Sally Gries at Cleveland City Club

On Wednesday, June 20, we looked forward to going to the City Club because the speaker was Ms. Susan Goldberg, Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic since 2014. Ms. Goldberg is the first woman as well as first person of Jewish descent to hold this position since the publication was founded in 1888. 


Appropriately, the forum for this day at the City Club was the Annual Sally Gries Endowed Forum in Honor of Women of Achievement. Ms. Gries is the founder of Gries Financial, which has the distinction of being the first female-owned registered investment firm in Ohio.


Much of Ms. Goldberg's talk concerned how National Geographic has successfully made use of all forms of media, especially digital, to reach the broadest audience possible, and is thus popular with all age groups. But we, ourselves, choose to focus this post on Ms. Goldberg herself because under her tenure, National Geographic has tackled a lot of tough issues like climate change, gender identification, and the refugee crisis. 

Unlike other news sources, National Geographic doesn't delve into the backgrounds and day-to-day activities of our policy makers (national and/or international), but explores the effects of the policies on the planet and on those who inhabit it. Ms.Goldberg told us that the goal of such endeavors is to make a difference and inspire people to take action.

The June edition of National Geographic, for instance, features a cover story about the negative effects of our reliance on plastic products which are mostly non-recyclable. As a result, so far over 40,000 people have signed a pledge to reconsider and/or cut back on their use of plastic products like bottles containing water.

Perhaps most famous was the April 2018 issue of National Geographic, which was devoted to racial issues. It contained a letter by Ms. Goldberg in which she acknowledged that in the course of the magazine's history, it had often resorted to racial stereotyping via overly exoticized imagery and subject matter. Read Ms. Goldberg's letter here

We spoke to her before the program and she readily acknowledged her concern about what is taking place at the U.S./Mexican border in terms of detainment policies, and that it might be a good topic for a National Geographic feature.

During the luncheon, we sat with Mr. Matt Shiffler, a local photographer and gallery owner who recently resettled in Cleveland after teaching English in Asia for a year. Mr. Shiffler asked Ms. Goldberg how a white male reporter/photographer could fairly depict people of a different culture. Ms. Goldberg believed this was an important question. She recounted a situation wherein a British photographer embedded himself in an indigenous community for months and thus acquired respect for the culture he was trying to depict. Subsequently, his choice of photographs reflected his reverence.


While there, we met Mr. Doug Katz, owner/chef of Fire, Food and Drink on Shaker Square. Katz is also a good friend of our good friend, Ms. Rose Wong. We checked out his restaurant's website and are eager to go there, as it features some tempting vegan options. 

Mr. Katz was there with his friends from Countryside Conservancy, one of the Community Partners for this program. This group was very welcoming so we looked up their website and learned that part of its mission is "to preserve the fading rural character of the Cuyahoga Valley" through the Countryside Initiative Program, which "rehabilitated farms and farmland within the park and leases these farmsteads to be farmed and cared for by private farmers."

We can think of no better community partner for a forum named in honor of Ms. Sally Gries and featuring Ms. Susan Goldberg, the innovative Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic. 


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC


Aimee Jannsohn