The recently announced upcoming departure of NPR CEO Gary Knell serves as a useful time to look at the history of NPR leadership. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, NPR insists that it doesn’t play favorites in its news coverage of political parties. One indication of NPR’s actual commitment to being nonpartisan in its news coverage is its choice of President/CEO. Just from what is publicly known about NPR’s nine leaders over the past 42 years, most were known to be devoted Democrats before being hired. None were known to be Republicans (even liberal Republicans).
NPR’s first two leaders had no public history of partisan activity. The NPR board can’t take much credit for that, though. The first leader, Don Quayle, was picked before NPR was even broadcasting. The second leader, Lee Frischknecht, a life-long friend of Quayle’s and already second in command at NPR, was hand-picked by Quayle to take over at NPR, so that he could move on to another job. Those were unique cases.
Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi was complete enough in his reporting on the internal NPR review of the Juan Williams firing on Saturday that he included financial numbers that NPR released on the bonuses of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller. The decision to cancel her bonus over that Fox-loathing fiasco was a six-figure decision:
According to tax records released by NPR on Friday, Schiller received a bonus of $112,500 in May 2010, about 17 months after she was hired by the Washington-based organization. This was in addition to a base salary of $450,000. The bonus was included in her hiring package, NPR said.
The preceding year, before Schiller's arrival, NPR paid out $1.22 million in salary, bonuses and deferred compensation to Schiller's predecessor, Kevin Klose, who retired that year. It paid another $1.22 million to Ken Stern, its president, who was forced out. Stern's compensation was swelled by a early buyout of his contract, according to NPR.
Remember the outrage earlier this year for some of the bonuses paid out to executives of financial institutions that were TARP recipient? Or how about the press coverage that spurred on populist outrage when it was reported former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain spent $35,000 on a commode to redecorate his office?