By George Capsis
Oh my, there is nothing so heart-rending as discovering that an old friend has been deceiving you for years and is not the person you thought he or she was. That happened when I read the Times on Saturday, December 23rd and learned that Laura Walker, the head of WNYC for 20 years, “is compensated like a media mogul…She earned $768,000, excluding benefits or deferred compensation.” (I guess that is like a million bucks a year.) I suddenly thought about those intense two-week-long fundraising campaigns pleading for a few dollars to keep WNYC alive and, I guess, to pay Laura her million bucks. (See the Times article entitled “WNYC Chief Pushed Growth at the Cost of Station’s Culture.”)
Here is a little history: In 1995, WNYC was a City-owned AM/FM station with offices in the Municipal Building. It had one million listeners and an $8 million budget; it raised $11.8 million in annual fundraising. (My very first time on radio was as an air raid messenger during World War II, reporting how we would restore communications in a bombed-out New York.)
Today, WNYC is still a “nonprofit” but it owns both WNYC and WQXR (they got it from the Times) and has an audience of 26 million. It also features online streaming content and downloads and a $100 million budget with $52 million from fundraisers.
The Times’ writer David Chen evidently talked to many of the current 600 employees and ex-employees. They are pretty mad at WNYC management and complained of the extraordinary turnover. One person stated, “we literally did not know who to go to for benefits.” They also complained of the usual race and sex prejudice: “If you want to be on the air, you’re a white man.”
Okay, I have every radio in the house permanently tuned to WNYC and I will not change that but I will never mail them a check to pay Laura’s million-buck salary.