When cable television came into being in the 1980s, each channel had a specific message and focus. Over time, the shift from the original concepts has been slow but seismic. I remember when A&E was the arts before "Law & Order" reruns. The changes were made for ratings.
In 2000 I was doing work for the National Geographic Society, which was launching its own cable network. So how did this fabled institution get so far off message that its most popular program, as Meghan Daum notes, is "Doomsday Preppers?" Additional programs such as "Living Nightmares" round out a gawkfest schedule of what Daum labeled as "mental illness TV."
The National Geographic Society's historical mission is, according to President and Chief Executive John M. Fahey Jr., "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting the conservation of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources."