David Ignatius's op-ed article about the National Geographic Society implied that a proposal that the National Geographic magazine be published in foreign languages met with strong editorial opposition ["Geographic: Exploring Renewal," May 17].

But magazine editors were experimenting with foreign editions 24 years ago and were highly successful in selling a Spanish-language reprint in Mexico and Guatemala. Also in the '70s, the society was co-publishing its books in French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese and other languages. All overseas publishers involved were anxious to publish foreign-language editions of the magazine, but senior executives of the society -- not the editors -- killed the project.

Mr. Ignatius's suggestion that the other entrepreneurial projects were opposed primarily by magazine editors could not be farther from the truth. Many of the so-called recent innovations, such as television expansion, were proposed by editors and their staffs many years ago, but their ideas largely were ignored by inflexible, visionless top administrators.

Reg Murphy and John Fahey do indeed deserve credit for having the guts to clean out the opposition to change, but let's not label the editors and their staff obstructionists. I have been privy to both sides of this war, having served half of my 40-year career at the National Geographic as an editor and the remainder as an officer there.


Chevy Chase