Matt Thompson leaves NPR for The Atlantic

Matt Thompson will be the deputy editor of, NPR staffers were told in a memo Wednesday, David Folkenflik reports. Thompson is NPR's director of vertical initiatives and will work with site editor J.J. Gould "to help oversee editorial operations and shape strategic development," The Atlantic says in a press release.

"It’s difficult to count all the ways and all the places where Matt has played a vital role at NPR during his years with us," NPR managing editor for digital news Scott Montgomery and NPR News Executive Editor Madhulika Sikka write in an email to staffers, which is below.

Thompson, who worked at Poynter in the early 2000s, follows a number of high-profile departures from NPR in recent months. Chief content officer Kinsey Wilson left in October (and later landed at The New York Times). Senior VP for news Margaret Low Smith announced in July she would leave (she headed to The Atlantic, too). VP of content strategy and operations Sarah Lumbard left for United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Institute of Holocaust Education in October. And Joyce MacDonald, who works for the adjacent organization National Public Media, announced last month she would become vice president of journalism at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Here's NPR's memo.

We are sorry to announce that our friend and colleague Matt Thompson is leaving NPR.

It’s difficult to count all the ways and all the places where Matt has played a vital role at NPR during his years with us. He has helped us advance our digital thinking and has pushed us to bring a strategic approach to creating coverage. At this point, almost everyone in the newsroom has shared a meeting with Matt and has come away better for it.

And so it pains us to see him go. But, after a lengthy deliberation, Matt concluded that he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to become the deputy editor of He’ll help shape digital strategy at a storied news organization that already serves as an industry leader in that department.

Matt came to NPR in early 2010 as the editorial lead for Project Argo, the collaboration with 12 member stations that produced sites like KQED’s MindShift, WBUR’s CommonHealth, and WXPN’s The Key. Alongside Mark Memmott, he coauthored NPR’s ethics handbook (and worked with Wes Lindamood to code the Wordpress template that powers it).

Most recently, he worked with partners across the newsroom to oversee the launch of Code Switch, NPR Ed, and Goats & Soda.

We’ll miss Matt’s smarts and his self-deprecating style and we wish him the best in his new role with the Atlantic. In the days ahead, we’ll announce plans for how we’ll fill Matt’s open position in the newsroom.

Scott and Madhulika

Scott Montgomery

The Atlantic's release:

December 3, 2014 (Washington, D.C.)—Matt Thompson (@mthomps) will join the leadership of as the deputy editor. Thompson will work with the site’s editor J.J. Gould (@jjgould) to help oversee editorial operations and shape strategic development at a time of record audience growth. Coming from NPR—where he has most recently directed news teams covering race, ethnicity, and culture; education; and global health and development—he will start at The Atlantic in the new year.

“Matt is a force,” said Gould. “He’s creative about new media and their emerging potential, he’s serious about journalism as a public good, and he’s super-smart about the requirements of leadership in a digital organization. He’s also just a natural fit for The Atlantic personally. Working with him is going to be a lot of fun.”

At NPR, Thompson started the Code Switch blog, which he oversaw along with several other topic-focused verticals. He previously helped coordinate 12 local websites in conjunction with NPR member stations and coauthored NPR’s ethics handbook. Before going to NPR, Thompson was the deputy web editor for The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and he built and ran The Fresno Bee’s news blog, serving as the paper’s first online reporter. Thompson is the vice-chairman of the board at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization for investigative journalism, and in 2011 he cofounded SparkCamp, a regular gathering for a diverse range of people from a cross-section of industries.

Thompson is among a number of editors and writers to join The Atlantic in recent months, including business journalists Bourree Lam (@bourreelam), previously with Freakonomics, Alana Semuels (@alanasemuels), formerly with the Los Angeles Times, and Gillian B. White (@gillianbwhite), most recently with Kiplinger; education editor Alia Wong (@aliaemily), formerly with Civil Beat; science writer Nicholas St. Fleur (@scifleur), who previously reported for Scientific American and NPR; and Lenika Cruz (@lenikacruz), formerly with Circa, covering entertainment. is an award-winning site, publishing dozens of original pieces daily on politics, business, culture, technology, health, education, and global affairs. It is also the digital home of The Atlantic magazine and Atlantic Video. October and November brought record audiences to the site—the best two months in its history in terms of both unique visitors and page views.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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