Ira Glass took a paycut, and so did other public radio hosts

by Andy Boyle.

I will take a break from my normal nerd blogging and would like to talk about the salaries of people you might know. OMG SCANDALOUS!

A chat with a friend about IRS forms for news non-profits made me wonder about how much someone like Ira Glass makes. I assumed he’d do quite well, as he is incredibly talented and his show is carried across hundreds of stations.

It’s not unusual for people in high-level journalism jobs who have decades of experience to make a good deal of money, as they often work more than your usual 40 hours a week and they usually have skills and talents few others possess.

So I went to guidestar.org, a site that tracks, among other things, IRS form 990s, which non-profits are legally required to file once a year (unless they get an extension, and then it can be even later). The most recent one they had was from the 2008-09 year. I was quite surprised to see our favorite bespectacled radio host made $159,371, with $11,234 in other compensation (this can mean for benefits, 401k, travel reimbursements [I think], etc.).

That seemed somewhat low. I checked WHYY, the public radio station that produces “Fresh Air,” and their 990s show Terry Gross made $225,303 in 2008-09.

So I looked further, checking National Public Radio’s tax forms for 2008-09, the most recent ones available. Steve Inskeep, one of the hosts of NPR’s Morning Edition, made $309,225. His co-host, Renee Montagne, made $297,510. All Things Considered hosts Michele Norris and Robert Siegel made $286,144 and $295,010, respectively.

Of course, Glass doesn’t do a daily show, like the other public radio personalities. But how does his salary of $159,371 compare with the rest of his staff? Producer Alex Blumberg, who in addition to his work on “This American Life” helps out with NPR’s Planet Money blog and podcast, made $143,020 in 2008-09. Julie Snyder was at $137,742 that year. So he’s not that far above his other coworkers, which is interesting.

Then I checked the previous years. In 2007-08, Glass made $216,000, Snyder made $155,521, and Blumberg made $147,383. Looks like Glass and the rest took some paycuts. Glass took a 26 percent paycut, Blumberg a 3 percent paycut and Snyder took almost a 13 percent paycut. Wow. I’m willing to bet that Glass and Snyder cut their paychecks higher than others, just so less staff would need to be laid off. That’s just a guess.

Meanwhile, NPR’s 2007-08 tax forms only lists salaries for Siegel, Montagne and Inskeep (of those I previously mentioned). Siegel made $319,300 that year, so he took an 11.5 percent paycut. Montagne made $360,826, so her salary dropped $21 percent. And Inskeep’s salary dropped 12.4 percent to $353,390.

Anywho, I just found this information to be interesting. And to point out how awesome IRS 990s are.

Update 11:10ish a.m.

Apparently this is NPR’s 40th anniversary today. Didn’t plan for that. BUT I STILL LOVE YOU GUYS AND EVERYTHING YOU DO!

Update  11:36 a.m.

Also, I checked Public Radio International’s 990s and didn’t find any listings of Ira Glass, just to see if they were also compensating him. And, of course, let’s not forget that he also made that awesome TV show, so he maybe made a few bucks off that. Glass also gives lectures, talks, helps edit books, etc., which I’m sure compensate him somewhat.

But talent costs money, folks. I think that’s a good take away from this.

Update 11:50 a.m.

According to American Public Media’s tax records, Kai Ryssdal, host of Marketplace, made $235,895 in 2008-09.  He made $167,590 in 2007-08, those tax records show. The reason for the jump? Either he was also being compensated by some records I didn’t find in 2007-08, or maybe his bosses realized how awesome his name was and they had to give him more money.

Update 1:32 p.m.

Hey people from Poynter.org and Romenesko! Waddup?

Update July 21, 2013

I wrote a new post, looking at their updated salaries. Check it out.