Alicia C. Shepard
Elizabeth Doherty thinks that Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, makes too much money.
Simon's $300,648 salary was included in a survey of Washington, DC-area salaries printed in the Washington Post on Sept.7. Doherty said she had considered re-starting her lapsed membership with her local station, WAMU, until she saw Simon's salary.
"I considered rejoining until the Washington Post article Labor Day weekend about local salaries," wrote Doherty, of Silver Spring, Md. "If NPR can afford to pay that kind of salary to on-air talent, then surely you can share some of your riches with local NPR affiliates. They don't need my $50. I wonder how much Mr. Simon donates to HIS local public radio station, which is also WAMU."
So I asked Simon. Does he give to WAMU?
"I don't mind saying—in fact, I'm proud of saying—that my wife and I belong to: WBEZ, WAMU, WNYC, KCRW, KPCC, and KCPW," said Simon. "I also, in the course of a year, usually join any local public station at which I make an appearance, and I make something like 20 a year (so soon I will re-join OPB, KPLW, GPB, etc.)
And as for his salary, here's what Simon has to say:
"I am grateful for the salary that I earn and feel that it is merited by the popularity of our program, the audience our show generates, the number of interviews, essays, and reported pieces that I do, and whatever value I have to NPR that may contribute to our relationship with the public," said Simon, who joined NPR in 1977.
"There are a few other people in public radio who earn more, both at weekly and daily programs," he continued. "Most everybody in commercial broadcasting earns a lot more. I try to be worthy of my salary each and every week, as well as the trust of the audience. I am grateful to each and every person who contributes to public radio and has helped make possible the really blessed professional life that I have been able to enjoy and, I hope, share with millions of listeners."
Readers might be interested in this piece in the Columbia Journalism Review that notes CBS anchor Katie Couric is paid the equivalent of what it costs to produce two NPR shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
MORE ON SIMON
Some listeners were disturbed by Simon's interview on Sept. 5 with novelist Lorrie Moore about her new book, "A Gate at the Stairs." In the interview, Moore read a section in her book where a character fantacizes about driving a steak knife through former Bush operative Karl Rove. After that she and Simon laughed.
Simon was laughing most directly at the absurdity of her punclhine, in a fictional story, but still he shouldn't have laughed. And he knows that. He apologized to listeners on Sept. 19. Here's a clip of the apology:
He also posted an apology under the comments section of the original interview.
Here's Simon's comment posted on Sept. 7:
"If I thought for a moment that Lorrie Moore was making a serious appeal to harm anyone, I would have made that the center of the interview. She was writing a passage satirizing overheard conversation in a small, smug, mostly liberal college town. The remark about Karl Rove—and the instantaneous admission that it was wrong—are part of that satire. I'm sure Ms. Moore has her own political convictions. But people should not infer what they think they are from an isolated satirical passage in a novel. In any case, I doubt they would include physically harming anybody in any case. The irony (hope I'm using the word correctly) here is that liberals should be touchier about this section than conservatives—it satirizes the kind of person who say they oppose war, but seem to countenance verbal violence."
From the transcript:
Ms. MOORE: Is this Sarah Vaughn on the stereo? Sure is. Man, listen to her scat. (Soundbite of music) And you say you don't believe in such a thing as black culture? I don't. Ever heard Julie Andrews scat? I don't believe in gay culture or white culture or female culture or any of that. It's just so dream world, baby. Ever heard Julie Andrews at all? Hey, you don't need blue eyes if you've got blue earrings.
I didn't know what they were talking about most of the time, but sometimes in recalling certain remarks, the context would clarify them. Certain phrases like a dusting of sand would float across my mind and heap to a sort of glass. I'd seen scat, and now here it was as an admirable thing.
Vaughn takes autumn leaves and turns it into "Finnegan's Wake." Is that your argument? Yeah, kind of an Irish one over beer. I'm drinking beer. When we were in France, the French customs officials looked at us in a bewildered way. But look, they said, as if they were pointing out something we'd failed to notice. You are white and your son is black; how can this be? As if it defied science or as if we had never regarded our own skin color before. And I had to say in English and in anger: This is what an American family looks like.
The rest of the world doesn't understand the ungovernable diversity of this country - diversity made even more extreme by capitalism and by Karl Rove. I was once in a restaurant and saw Karl Rove sitting across the room and for five minutes I thought: I could take this steak knife and walk over there and change history right now. And, well, as you can see, I chose to stay a free woman. Would anyone care for a timbale?
(Soundbite of laughter)