Katie Couric’s annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR’sMorning Edition andAll 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.
This is not a new development, of course. It’s been unfolding since
1986, when billionaire Laurence Tisch bought CBS and eviscerated its
news division in order to boost profits. (For a sharp, first-hand
account of this process, seeBad News: The Decline of Reporting, The Business of News, and the Danger to Us All,
by former CBS correspondent Tom Fenton.) But the issue seems worth
revisiting in light of the recent naming of Diane Sawyer to replace
Charlie Gibson as the anchor of ABC’sWorld News. We don’t yet
know how much Sawyer is going to be paid, but it will no doubt surpass
Gibson’s current estimated salary of $8 million.
Even if their producers and writers were worth this much, Katie, Diane and Charlie certainly aren’t. Worth more than the entirety of the NPR foreign operation? Yeah. Sure. Let’s talk some more about how without the Internet we’d still be in some golden age of altruistic mission-driven journalism.