When we asked writer Brooke Borel to look into early efforts to explore protecting imperiled island birds by tweaking the genetic code of their mouse predators, we had no idea whether the National Audubon Society had taken a position on the controversial concept, and if so what it might be. (As Borel reports near the end of “Engineering a Better Mousetrap,” the answer is essentially “We haven’t taken a stance, but Audubon scientists tend to look unfavorably on calls to ban scientific research.”) We didn’t need to know that going in because our interest in the story had everything to do with the fact that it’s an important one that we were certain you’d find fascinating, and nothing to do with promulgating an organizational party line.
Because here’s the thing: Odd as this may sound, Audubon is not Audubon. The magazine has functioned as an independent journalistic entity, published by the National Audubon Society and covering topics of interest to the organization’s members (I like to call it a general-interest magazine about birds), for the entirety of its hundred-plus years and counting. It is not a house organ, and its value derives entirely from its integrity, from the fact that you can trust that what you read here is factually accurate and fair, and isn’t dictated to us by our organizational overlords. And when we report on Audubon’s work, as we do regularly, we apply the same journalistic rigor and commitment to clarity and accuracy. (You’ll find a particularly fine example of this in “Oases in a Dry Land,” our exploration of the Water and Birds in the Arid West report just published by Audubon’s science team.) Bottom line, there is nothing fake about our news.
That ethic emphatically applies to the photos we publish as well, and is duly enshrined in the rules of our annual Audubon Photography Awards, which state that submitted photos must “accurately reflect the subject matter as it appeared in the viewfinder,” with any digital alteration beyond “standard optimization” grounds for disqualification. The gallery of this year’s winners and the Top 100 provide incontrovertible evidence (if any were needed) that there is nothing more powerful than to truly see the world, in all its splendor and squalor, just as it is.