Hutterite angry over National Geographic Reality Show


Hutterite communities across North America used to celebrate the National Geographic Society. They're proud of some of the Society's past reporting of their highly traditional, and normally closed communities. Not any more. Hutterite bishops say they've been had, by National Geographic TV producers who tried to turn their Montana colony into something more along the lines of Jersey Shores than you'd expect from the purveyors of glossy pieces of staid magazine reportage.

Part Two of The Current

Hutterite angry with National Geographic over reality show - Mary-Ann Kirkby

Two organizations with roots going back more than 100 years are at loggerheads over a pervasive 21st Century innovation... reality TV.

On one side: the Hutterites, a highly successful religious community that runs collective farms, or, as they call them, colonies scattered across the Canadian and U.S. Prairies. They are bound together by age-old values and stand out in their 19th century clothing. But they're not shy about using cutting-edge agricultural technology.

On the other side is the National Geographic Society, founded in 1888. It has published one of the world's most respected, best known magazines ever since, sponsored exploration and scientific research around the world and has given its support to a string of award-winning TV documentaries. And it has placed itself firmly into the modern media landscape by partnering with National Geographic TV.
That channel airs a string of reality TV shows. This one, American Colony: Meet the Hutterites, is not your father's Jacques Cousteau special.

It was shot at a colony in central Montana. Hutterites across the continent are shocked by this depiction. Four Hutterite bishops wrote a letter of complaint to National Geographic in which they say they've been"deceived and exploited".

The bishops also asked Mary-Ann Kirkby to speak out on their behalf. She's an author who chronicled her childhood experiences in her book I Am Hutterite. Mary-Ann Kirkby was in our Saskatoon studio.

Hutterite angry with National Geographic over reality show - Alan Mairson

How much of the anger and frustration the Hutterites are living now is to do with changing in how they do business at the National Geographic Society.

Alan Mairson is a former staff writer and editor for National Geographic magazine and a freelancer in Bethesda, Maryland. He's also founding editor of societymatters-dot-org, a website which he describes as a running commentary and critique of the National Geographic Society. He was in our Washington, D.C. studio.

Hutterite angry with National Geographic over reality show - Jeff Collins

Jeff Collins has overseen a number of reality TV series, including Bridezillas, The Exterminator and Dance Moms. He is the Executive Producer of American Colony: Meet the Hutterites. He was on the line from his home in Los Angeles.

This segment was produced by Network Producer Sean Prpick.

Last Word - 49th Parallel

We've been talking today about Hutterites and their anger at being unfairly portrayed. Interestingly enough , this was a theme of the British war film, 49th Parallel. A U-boat crew is marooned in Hudson Bay and in its efforts to get home, has a series of utterly Canadian adventures. It's preposterous, but it has its charms. At one point, the crew wanders into a Manitoba Hutterite colony and the commander believes since the Hutterites are ethnic Germans, they'll be sympathetic to the Nazis. Boy, does he get set straight. Today's Last Word goes to the 1941 film, 49th Parallel.

Other segments from today's show:

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