WNYC Begs You For Money So It Can Pay Its CEO Half a Million Dollars

Yesterday WNYC, New York's public radio station, laid off four staffers and eliminated 11 unfilled positions. As we speak, it's begging for donations with its spring pledge drive. So why does CEO Laura Walker make nearly $500,000 a year?

According to WNYC's most recent tax returns, Walker, who has been running WNYC for a decade, made $486,688 in annual compensation and benefits as of June 2007. By way of comparison, that's $222,000 more than the next highest-paid person at the station.

Half a million dollars isn't an absurd amount of money to be paying someone to run a huge major market radio station. But it's $60,000 more than Kenneth Stern, the CEO and highest-paid employee of National Public Radio—the far larger radio network that supplies WNYC with much of its content—made in 2007, according to NPR's most recent tax return. Stern, who left NPR last year, was responsible for 656 employees making more than $50,000 a year. [Note: This has been corrected to reflect the fact that Stern is no longer the CEO of NPR.] Walker is responsible for 95. She makes twice the salary of the highest-paid staffer at Public Radio International, NPR's main competitor.

We asked WNYC's spokeswoman why Walker's salary is so high, and so out of whack with the rest of the station's salary structure, at a time when the nonprofit is shedding jobs and staffers. We also asked her if Walker had taken a pay cut since June 2007. She said she needed time to find an answer.

Along with the cuts revealed yesterday, WNYC also announced an across-the-board 5% salary reduction for senior staffers, which would bring down Walker's compensation to roughly $462,000. But given the huge spread between her salary and that of the rest of the senior staff, one would hope that she took a bigger hit.

Just remember where the money is going the next time WNYC begs you to support the important work that they're doing.

WNYC Begs You For Money So It Can Pay Its CEO Half a Million Dollars