Those Soft-Voiced Anchors at NPR Make the Big Bucks

Josh Gerstein, a former reporter for ABC News and the New York Sun, blogged about how National Public Radio -- now laying off 64 employees and shutting down two programs -- has some perhaps surprising salary figures for a somewhat public media outlet:

NPR reported its five highest paid employees were:
1. Managing Editor Barbara Rehm, $383,139
2. All Things Considered host Robert Siegel [pictured], $350,288
3. Morning Edition host Renee Montagne, $332,160
4. Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, $331,242
5. NPR afternoon programming director Richard L. Harris, $190,267.

The most eye-catching salary ever reported on an NPR tax form is probably the $505,132 paid to broadcaster Bob Edwards in FY2004, the year he was ousted as host of Morning Edition, quit, and went to XM Radio. He hosted his last NPR show in April, five months before the end of the fiscal year, so the half-million dollar salary (presumably including some kind of severance) seems to have been for just seven months work....

As someone who spent several summers interning in the newsroom at one of NPR's best stations (WBUR-FM in Boston), I think a lot of meagerly paid reporters and staffers at local NPR affiliates would find some of these salaries staggering.

On the other hand, they are surely lower than those at commercial networks. I'm also a bit surprised at the big gap between the top three on-air talents (Siegel, Montagne, Inskeep) and the other reporters and anchors, who presumably make less than Harris.

Gerstein was later told that "Harris" was not an NPR host, so why was it on the tax form? Gerstein reported a look at the latest IRS Form 990 disclosure form for NPR found these anchors didn't make much less than the top dogs (salary numbers about halfway in):  

Then-president of NPR Kevin Klose made $465,994 from the network and $151,375 from the NPR foundation for a total of $617,369. Kenneth Stern, who served as CEO before leaving abruptly in March of this year, made $427,057.The 2007 return showed 15 people at NPR with the title of vice president or senior vice president. Most made between about $190,000 and $260,000.

These salaries may seem modest compared to a lot of Washington bigwigs (if not Cabinet officers and congressmen), but remember that any time NPR's taxpayer funding is threatened, we've heard stories of dire times for stations in Sitka, Alaska. Don't buy it.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis