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Knell To Head National Geographic Society

Gary Knell, most recently president of NPR and before that head of TV kids production company Sesame Workshop, is heading to National Geographic.

Knell will become president and CEO of the National Geographic Society in late fall, which would be after two years in the NPR post. (He has a two-year contract that expires in November). In the meantime, Knell will continue to work with the NPR board on the transition to a successor.

The move puts Knell back in the TV business via the society's films and TV productions, which have aired on PBS and Fox, and the Nat Geo cable channel (co-owned with Fox).

Knell has headed NPR since 2011. He was tapped to help right the ship after NPR President Vivian Schiller resigned. Schiller had taken helm after the firing of Juan Williams, which an internal investigation concluded had been mishandled, as well as the conduct of Ron Schiller (no relation) an NPR fundraising executive.

Knell said in a note to staffers Monday that National Geographic's was an offer he just couldn't refuse.

"I was approached by the organization recently and offered an opportunity that, after discussions with my family, I could not turn down," he said.

"In the upheaval of today's media environment, you offer something few other media companies can," he told the staffers. "NPR is and will always be a beacon of journalistic integrity, commitment, and courage."

"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, NPR board chair, in a statement. "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."

The board will lead the search process for a successor.