En el libro The Magazine from Cover to Cover, de Sammye Johnson y Patricia Prijatel, se recogen algunos de los principios que rigen National Geographic. Fueron elaborados en 1915 por el entonces editor jefe, Gilbert H. Grosvenor. Siempre es interesante saber cómo funciona esta revista.
1- The first principle is absolute accuracy. Nothing must be printed that is not strictly according to fact.
2- Abundance of beautiful, instructive, and artistic illustrations.
3- Everything printed in the Magazine must have permanent value, and be so planned that each magazine will be as valuable and pertinent one year or five years after publication as it is on the day of publication.
4- All personalities and notes of a trivial character are avoided.
5- Nothing of a partisan or controversial character is printed.
6- Only what is of a kindly nature is printed about any country or people, everything unpleasant or unduly critical being avoided.
7- The contents of each number is planned with a view of being timely. Whenever any part of the world becomes prominent in public interest, by reason of war, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc., the members of the National Geographic Society have come to know that in the next issue of their Magazine they will obtain the latest geographic, historical, and economic information about that region, presented in an interesting and absolutely non-partisan manner, and accompanied by photographs which in number and excellence can be equaled by no other publication.