National Geographic Just Laid Off its Last Staff Writers

National Geographic, a magazine renowned for its photojournalism and wildlife photography, has laid off the last of its remaining staff writers and a number of other employees, according to multiple departing staff writers. The move signals a possible decline for the publication.

The 19 affected employees—which The Washington Post reports included staff writers and members of the audio team—were made aware of the reduction back in April, which was also when parent company Disney announced widespread layoffs.

While multiple laid-off staffers have publicly stated that all staff writers have been let go, there appears to be mixed messaging — an internal source familiar with the situation told PetaPixel that this layoff did not affect “all writers”, as has been reported, and that the magazine continues to employ staff “writers/editors”. However, this may simply refer to the elimination of dedicated writing roles — The Post reports that “article assignments will henceforth be contracted out to freelancers or pieced together by editors.”

“Two wildlife crime reporters remain on staff. These reporters’ salaries are funded as part of Wildlife Watch, a program funded and supported by the nonprofit National Geographic Society,” a departing staffer tells PetaPixel.

“I’m not sure that these reporters could have been laid off with us, because of the nature of the MOU between Disney and the National Geographic Society.”

This comes after six top editors were laid off back in September 2022, according to The Washington Post. The Post further reported that National Geographic will continue to publish a monthly magazine, but copies will no longer be sold on newsstands in the U.S.

Additionally, National Geographic seems to be pulling back on the legendary photography it is known for. The magazine reportedly told departing staff Wednesday that it “has curtailed photo contracts that enabled photographers to spend months in the field,” according to The Post.

Still, there remains an appetite for National Geographic’s journalism and photojournalism despite the reductions in staff. The publication had more than 1.7 million subscribers at the end of 2022, according to CNN.

National Geographic will continue to publish a monthly magazine that is dedicated to exceptional multi-platform storytelling with cultural impact. Staffing changes will not change our ability to do this work, but rather give us more flexibility to tell different stories and meet our audiences where they are across our many platforms. Any insinuation that the recent changes will negatively impact the magazine, or the quality of our storytelling, is simply incorrect,” a National Geographic spokesperson told PetaPixel.

While employees were told of the reduction previously, some have spoken on social media as they reach their final dates of employment.

“My new National Geographic just arrived, which includes my latest feature—my 16th, and my last as a senior writer,” former National Geographic writer Craig Welch tweeted Wednesday, adding that the magazine was laying off all its staff writers.

Welch continued, “I’ve been so lucky. I got to work [with] incredible journalists and tell important, global stories. It’s been an honor.”

“Today is my last day at National Geographic. The magazine is parting ways with its staff writers, including me,” Michael Greshko, another departed National Geographic writer, tweeted. “I’m so grateful for the opportunities I have had over the past 7 years. To everyone who read my stories, thank you from the bottom of my heart. On to the next!”

Former employees of the magazine offered their condolences, as well.

“Sad for many reasons to see that National Geographic has laid off its staff writers. As a former editor and writer at the magazine, I extend my sympathy and support to those affected — as well as reassurance that there is life after NatGeo,” NPR Digital Editor Hannah Bloch tweeted in light of the news.

Back in 2017, Disney purchased National Geographic as part of the conglomerate’s larger merge with 21st Century Fox. National Geographic was initially folded into Fox in 2015, which turned the magazine into a for-profit organization. Prior to that, it had been the official non-profit journal of the National Geographic Society since 1888. Two months later, 180 of its then 2,000 total employees were laid off, the largest reduction in the publication’s history, as PetaPixel reported at the time.

Image credits: Header photo from Depositphotos

Update 7/3: Added a quote from a departing staff member.