Is there a good way to lay people off?

Gary Knell, the former boss of NPR who abruptly quit in 2013 because of an offer he couldn’t refuse from National Geographic, might have set a new standard for clumsy layoff announcements.

National Geographic is in the process of gutting its staff now that it’s in the clutches of one Rupert Murdoch.

The layoffs are underway today.

If you get laid off, how do you want it to go? Swift and painful? Or drawn out?

According to a memo from Knell, obtained by Jim Romenesko, Knell has opted for the latter approach.

Message from Gary Knell – Important Information to Be Communicated on Nov. 3rd

To all NGS Staff:

After very careful and serious consideration, we are ready to communicate how our restructuring and transformation will affect each employee at National Geographic. To that end, please make every effort to be available tomorrow, November 3rd, either in your regular work location, and/or by phone.

If you are traveling for business, on vacation or plan to be out for any other reason, please notify Tia Freeman-Evans or Yvonne Perry in HR immediately, so we can make alternative plans to get in touch with you. If you know that someone on your staff will be out of the office on November 3rd, please let Tia or Yvonne know by 3 p.m. (Eastern) today, as well.

Please watch your inbox for important information about your employment status tomorrow.

I cannot thank you enough for your patience and hard work over the last few months. I am proud of how our teams and our organization have approached and responded to this transitional period. Looking ahead, I am confident National Geographic’s mission will be fulfilled in powerful, new and impactful ways, as we continue to change the world through science, exploration, education and storytelling.


Murdoch took over National Geographic today, providing easy fodder for the satirists among us.

National Geographic responds:

The National Geographic Society and the National Geographic Channels are in the process of reorganizing in order to move forward strategically following the closing the NG Partners deal, which is expected to occur in mid-November.

The entities combined have about 2,000 employees, and all staff have been advised as to their status as of closing. Involuntary separations will represent about 9% of the overall workforce reduction, many in shared services and a voluntary separation offer has also been made to eligible employees.

“It will be a lot harder to do the kind of journalism its fans know and love with far fewer talented people to do it,” Slate’s Rachel Gross writes.