Following 21st Century Fox Merger, National Geographic Lays Off Staff

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A literal wall of all the National Geographic magazine covers since the magazine’s launch in 1888.

The National Geographic magazine has been a nonprofit publication since its 1888 inception. In September, 21st Century Fox announced a for-profit venture in which it paid $725m for control of the National Geographic Society, to create National Geographic Partners, which includes National Geographic Channels.

In an email to staffers obtained by Jim Romensko, National Geographic Society president and CEO Gary Knell wrote “we are ready to communicate how our restructuring and transformation will affect each employee at National Geographic… Please watch your inbox for important information about your employment status tomorrow.”

On Tuesday, National Geographic informed employees it would lay off approximately 9% of its staff or 180 people out of the total 2,000 employees under the new partnership with Fox.

At the time of the deal’s announcement, James Murdoch, chief executive of 21st Century Fox, said in remarks to National Geographic that the pact created “an expanded canvas for the National Geographic brand to grow and reach customers in new ways, and to reach new customers.”

The lay off includes some of its most senior, decorated staff, photo editor Sherry L. Brukbache, picture editor Nancy Lee Ott, photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols, and a designer described by colleagues as “the best designer on staff.”

In addition to the layoffs and buyouts, the National Geographic Society said it would freeze its pension plan for eligible employees, eliminate medical coverage for future retirees and change its contributions to an employee 401(k) plan so that all employees receive the same percentage contribution.

Donald Winslow—editor of News Photographer magazine—tweeted “Already this morning one top picture editor, one top page designer axed @NatGeo magazine.”

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