- Honorary Degree (2010)
- Doctor of Humane Letters
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Presenter: Michael A. McRobbie
Chris Johns was named editor in chief of National Geographic magazine in January 2005. He is the ninth editor of the magazine since its founding in 1888. His extensive redesign of the magazine and focus on excellence in photojournalism and reporting have revitalized the magazine into a timely, relevant read for people looking for deeper insight into environmental and energy issues, world cultures, science and the natural world.
Johns' editorial efforts have been recognized with 13 National Magazine Awards from the American Society of Magazine Editors in the past five years: for Magazine of the Year and Single-Topic Issue in 2011; for General Excellence, Photojournalism and Essays and two inaugural Digital Media Awards for Best Photography and Best Community in 2010; for Photojournalism in 2009; for General Excellence, Photojournalism and Reporting in 2008; and for General Excellence and Photography in 2007. In 2010, National Geographic's website (ngm.nationalgeographic.com) was named Magazine Website of the Year by AdWeek Media Group, and in 2008 the magazine won a Webby Award for best magazine website. In October 2008, Johns was named editor of the year by Advertising Age magazine.
Born in Medford, Ore., Johns began his career in photojournalism when he joined the Topeka Capital-Journal as a staff photographer in 1975; in 1979 he was named National Newspaper Photographer of the Year. In 1983, after three years on the Seattle Times as picture editor and special projects photographer, he embarked on a freelance career and worked for Life, Time and National Geographic magazines.
Johns became a National Geographic contract photographer in 1985 and joined the magazine staff in 1995. Before taking over as editor in chief, Johns served as senior editor for illustrations and as associate editor. As a photographer, he produced more than 20 articles for National Geographic, eight of which were cover stories. His defining images are of Africa and its wildlife. He has taken readers down the Zambezi River, examined the Bushmen's ongoing struggle for cultural survival and provided important documentation of Africa's endangered wildlife. He was named one of the world's 25 most important photographers by American Photo magazine in 2003.
Johns' books include "Valley of Life: Africa's Great Rift" (1991), "Hawaii's Hidden Treasures" (1993) and "Wild at Heart: Man and Beast in Southern Africa" (2002). He wrote the foreword for "In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Portraits" (2004) and the introduction to the National Geographic book "100 Days in Photographs: Pivotal Events That Changed the World" (October 2007).
Johns was awarded an honorary doctorate from Indiana University in 2010. He studied photography at the University of Minnesota and holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism with a minor in agriculture from Oregon State University.
He lives on a farm in Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children.