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Approaching the news

We live in a very strange media world. I just read the following paragraph in the Columbia Journalism Review, and it sort of blew my mind:
While doing some recent research on the news business, I came upon this remarkable fact: Katie Couric’s annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined. Couric’s salary comes to an estimated $15 million a year; NPR spends $6 million a year on its morning show and $5 million on its afternoon one. NPR has seventeen foreign bureaus (which costs it another $9.4 million a year); CBS has twelve. Few figures, I think, better capture the absurd financial structure of the network news.
While I do not dispute that Katie Couric has become a competent interviewer, I'd like to think that Morning Edition and All Things Considered on balance, inform the public better than a single charismatic individual. The article goes on to discuss the ascension of Diane Sawyer to Charlie Giblson's spot in the ABC anchor chair, and the author points out that with a single exception, all of the coverage about Sawyer has been her attractiveness and nothing about the quality of journalism that she brings to the table. Of course, the public needs to trust the people delivering the news, but it's really shocking to me that such a high quality outfit like NPR can be run on the budget of a single network news anchor. And both of NPR's news shows bring in pretty big numbers; Morning Edition gets about 14 million listeners weekly and is the second most-listened-to-show on radio (Rush, earning $35 million a year is number one); All Things Considered gets 13 million. I don't know how the network news shows compare.

The brouhaha over Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric arises because *gasp* they're women. Both Morning Edition and All Things Considered is that both shows have been co-anchored by women for years. I was a little resntful of Renee Montagne in the early days, but only because she replaced the venerable Bob Edwards on Morning Edition. But I think she's very good. Michele Norris and Melissa Block on All Things Considered are phenomenal reporters and keep the flow of that show going beautifully. And, though their bread-and-butter tends to be the studio interview, ALL of the anchors of NPR flagship shows do outstanding original reporting in the field, sometimes traveling abroad to follow stories. Melissa Block's on the scene coverage of the earthquake in China last year was award winning.

But it's an apples and oranges comparison. Radio and television are vastly different media, and the public approaches them differently. I suppose I'm more shocked that NPR can do so well under such a tight budget than I am that the networks pay their anchors so much.



( 2 comments — Say something )
Sep. 24th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
I'd say the apples and oranges comparison comes not so much from one being radio and one being television....rather from one being listener supported and the other deriving revenue from advertising and big money sponsorship.
when you have more money, you spend more money.
Sep. 24th, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
You know, oddly enough my AM/FM clock radio died last week. Since I needed something I pulled my old (as in I used it 30+ years ago) GE AM clock radio (with hands). It has a "Wake to music" and is AM band only.

Every station on AM is "talk". Which means I wake up at 7am to someone screaming about Obama. Today it was global warming when they had Obama's speech for the UN followed by grunts, snorts, then statements saying "there is no global warming, it's cool today!"

Jesus I can't believe how stupid people are. I need my FM radio so I can wake up to Morning Edition....

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