July 11, 2013
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Mainstream journalism is,Â weâ€™re often told, in a state of severe crisis. Newsroom employment began to decline as a result of corporate takeovers in the 1990s. Then the digital revolution destroyed the advertising market, plunging the industry into serious doubt about its very business model.
But times arenâ€™t rough all around. There are many pundits and TV anchors who are doing very well in the media world, racking up millions of dollars from their media contracts, book deals and lucrative speaking fees. Though they donâ€™t generally approach the compensation packages awarded to network morning show hosts like Matt Lauer or evening anchors like Diane Sawyer, theyâ€™re not exactly hurting.
Of course, being the boss means the biggest paydayâ€”and media company CEOs have been posting unbelievable incomes. In 2012,Â CBSÂ head Les Moonves made $62 million,Â Disneyâ€™s Robert Iger made $37 million and Rupert Murdoch ofFoxÂ took home a comparatively modest $22 million ( New York Times,5/5/13). Donâ€™t feel sorry for Murdoch, though; as No. 91 onÂ Forbesâ€™ list of the worldâ€™s richest people, with an estimated net worth of $11.2 billion, heâ€™s unlikely to go to bed hungry.
The media business outstrips other industries in generously compensating its top executives ( New York Times,Â 5/5/13), and those resources could of course be put to better use by hiring reporters. But thatâ€™s not the way the system works. And itâ€™s not just the bosses getting rich. Indeed, many high-profile members of the media elite live a rather charmed life. The journalism business looks to be in a disastrous stateâ€”but the view from the top is just fine.
New York TimesÂ foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman has written a number of bestsellers, and regularly holds forth on outlets like public TVâ€™sÂ Charlie RoseÂ show. All of the globe-trotting and yearning for a â€œradical centrismâ€ in American politicsâ€”where sensible climate policies could be paired with cuts to social spendingâ€”have paid off handsomely.
Friedman is married to real estate heiress Ann Bucksbaum, and lives in a â€œpalatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7Â½-acre parcelâ€ near the Bethesda Country Club ( Washingtonian,Â 7/1/06).
Like most media figures, Friedmanâ€™s compensation is not reported. But by one relatively outdated account ( Washingtonian,Â 7/1/06), â€œHis speaking fee recently passed $50,000; with hisÂ TimesÂ salary, syndication rights, and royalties from his bestselling books, his annual income easily reaches seven figures.â€
Some of Friedmanâ€™s extracurricular employment has caused controversy. In 2009, the Â TimesÂ public editor (5/24/09) noted that Friedmanâ€™s acceptance of a $75,000 speaking fee from a California government agency violated company guidelines.
But clearly such arrangements are worth the potential trouble. That could explain the existence of The Next New World, a gathering scheduled for June in San Francisco. It was billed as an â€œinvitation-only, highly interactive forumâ€ with CEOs, â€œtech pioneersâ€ and â€œinfluential decision-makersâ€â€”and, of course, Tom Friedman.
Itâ€™s worth keeping in mind that when you read Friedman (1/6/13) complaining that â€œObama has spent a lot of time lately bashing the richâ€ and insisting that itâ€™s time for him â€œto stop just hammering the wealthyâ€â€”as the action movie clichÃ© puts it, this time itâ€™s personal.
As host ofÂ NBCâ€™sÂ Meet the Press, David Gregory is paid to quiz politicians on the tough issues of the day. But he offers his own opinions on the show, too; heâ€™s encouraged the Obama White House to propose â€œbig spending cutsâ€ in order to confuse Republicans (1/27/13; FAIR Blog,Â 1/29/13). He thinks the White House should have done more to have a â€œmoment in the Rose Gardenâ€ with a few corporate CEOs (11/11/12;Â FAIR Blog,Â 11/13/12), and demanded to hear more from the White House about the â€œhard choicesâ€ Americans must make to get by with less ( 1/29/12). He worried about the problem of Occupy activists â€œdemonizing Wall Streetâ€ ( 10/10/11). He expressed concern that the more people criticize big banks, â€œthe closer you get to wiping out the shareholder completelyâ€â€”a person â€œwho is not just a fat catâ€ ( 2/22/09).
Republished with permission from: AlterNet