This would qualify as surprising news if it weren’t for the fact that NPR CEOs never seem to last much longer than it takes Click & Clack to diagnose what ails a 1978 Subaru Brat. (Knell was the sixth CEO in eight-plus years.) Many of those previous problems came because of tensions with NPR’s board, which (broadly speaking) means tension between the network and its member stations; NPR’s ace media reporter David Folkenflik says that doesn’t seem to be the case this time.
Now’s as good a time as any to look through our past conversations with Knell: our story upon his hiring in October 2011, our Q&A in March 2012, and his talk at the Nieman Foundation last October. (Video of that’s embedded below, followed by the press release.)
NPR President and CEO Gary E. Knell Announces Decision to Accept Leadership Position at the National Geographic Society
August 19, 2013; Washington, D.C. – The Board of Directors of NPR announced today that it has been informed by President and Chief Executive Officer Gary E. Knell that he will leave this fall to become President and CEO of the National Geographic Society. Knell will remain with NPR until then to work with the Board to ensure a smooth transition as it launches a search for his successor.
“Gary and the management team have worked effectively to strengthen NPR as a world-class media organization, technological innovator and industry leader,” said Kit Jensen, Chair of the Board. “NPR has built a firm foundation for providing the highest quality journalism and programming. We will be working closely with Gary over the next few months, and deeply appreciate the lasting impact he has made.”
In a letter to employees, Knell expressed confidence that the team at NPR is charting “an ambitious path” for the organization’s future and that he had decided to accept the unsolicited offer to become chief executive officer at National Geographic following “a great deal of personal reflection.’’
“NPR is and will always be a beacon of journalistic integrity, commitment and courage,” Knell said. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you.”
Knell became President and CEO of NPR in 2011. He and the leadership team have been developing a strategic plan to strengthen the organization by engaging NPR’s extensive network of Member Stations, generating high-quality cross-platform journalism and programming, finding new sources of philanthropic and corporate underwriting support, and attracting new audiences.
NPR is one of the nation’s premier news organizations. Since 2012, the organization has won more than twenty-five industry awards, including two George Foster Peabody Awards and two Gracie Awards.
A thriving media organization at the forefront of digital innovation, NPR creates and distributes award-winning news, information, and music programming to a network of 975 independent stations. Through them, NPR programming reaches 27 million listeners every week, and nearly 23 million monthly on digital platforms. Visit npr.org to find local stations, listen to programs, music and stories, and learn more.
— Joshua Benton