National Geographic magazine launches Czech edition

National Geographic magazine launches Czech edition

National Geographic is known all around the world: as a society and a magazine it is valued for its high standards of scientific writing and photography, as well as its relentless exploration of life on our planet. In a way, it has become the standard for all magazines of its type. Now, the original National Geographic is coming to the Czech Republic - the Czech edition is being launched this week after months of preparation. As Jan Velinger reports the launch has been highly anticipated.

In many ways it is more than just "another" magazine launch: National Geographic, with its famous yellow border, has long meant something more for Czechs, who, not so long ago - under communist rule - were severely restricted from travelling abroad. The English edition was banned in Czechoslovakia before 1989, because it was a rare glimpse of the world outside in all its depth and variety. Twelve years after the fall of Communism the Czechs shall finally have their own edition, and interestingly, some 15 - 20 percent of the local edition will focus on Czech affairs. The rest will be based on the same U.S. version each month. Tomas Turecek is the Czech edition's editor-in-chief, and I spoke to him on Tuesday at the magazine's press conference held in the stately rooms of Prague's National Museum.

Tell me about the first issue that's coming out.

"The first issue will be especially about ancient Egypt, the reason is that the American edition will also be featuring an ancient Egypt story about the Sakkara excavations, that means we would also like to bring attention to the Czech Egyptologist school, which is very famous in the world."

About 15 percent of the content in the Czech version of National Geographic will actually be Czech, could you elaborate on that a little bit?

"Well, approximately 15 percent let's say, sometimes it will be 20 percent, sometimes 12, it really depends on the story. The stories in National Geographic, as you know, are quite long, and sometimes it will be difficult to get exactly 15 percent. We would like to continue with that and let's say, in the close future, expand to maybe 20, even 25, percent, but it depends on the licence agreement, which is very strict at the moment, so we will see for the future."

One of the reasons why it's such a special day in particular for the Czech Republic is because National Geographic was a symbol for a long time here, under the communist regime as well.

"We have waited a couple years, you know, to launch the Czech version of the magazine. The magazine has been launched in twenty countries already and we are the 21st local edition, and the reason why we are launching the magazine after 12 years of democracy is because National Geographic waits until certain conditions are met in each country, guaranteeing an open society and free democracy, the reasons are very clear and very pure."

What are some of the difficulties that had to be overcome for National Geographic to begin publishing here, aside from the requirements of democracy that you've already mentioned?

Tomas Turecek, photo: CTK
"The printing process is very important for National Geographic and the quality of the printing is pretty high. We weren't able to find an appropriate printing plant in this country, we had to find another printing plant in Poland, which is our neighbour, there are just four such plants in all of Europe, so you can see how important and difficult it is to find a printing plant. Another problem was the staff: we had to hire really very experienced editors and people from science. Another question was the photographers; it's not easy to get your photos in National Geographic. Even if we have really good [Czech] photographers they don't have experience shooting for National Geographic, it takes a very special sense of photography. So those are just a couple questions."

Nevertheless, you have every reason to be optimistic I imagine.

"Sure, I am very optimistic. Czechs are keen on National Geographic, they love it - in the past they loved it very much - and I think we are in for a big success."

Tomas Turecek says that more than 12, 000 readers in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Slovakia have already subscribed and it will be interesting to see how the magazine does on the Czech market, alongside two similar Czech magazines Koktejl (Cocktail) and Lide a Zeme - People and Countries.