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MPR executive pay: Kling tops $600,000

As promised Wednesday, a little spreadsheet crunching on Minnesota Public Radio executive pay. Again, this is based on the nonprofit network's IRS Form 990, which you can access here. Again, this covers the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, the most recent available.

Topping the list, of course, is Bill Kling, the president and CEO of the entity officially known as Minnesota Public RadioAmerican Public Media. He made $373,254 in compensation and benefits from MPR/APM, which for the year grossed $82.2 million. Kling's total take swelled to $606,753, including approximately $180,000 from American Public Media Group (APMG), which controls MPR, and $48,000 from Greenspring, MPR's for-profit arm.

Other key executives had nice paydays. Executive Vice President Thomas Kigin received $359,000 overall, including $218,000 in his role as Chief Administrative Officer and corporate counsel. Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Jon McTaggart grossed $376,000 overall, with $338,000 from MPR/APM.

Senior VP for Development Jon Gossett made $300,906 all but $245 of it from MPR/APM. Chief Financial Officer Mark Alfuth made $276,614, most of it from APMG. You can find other bigwigs scrolling through the form.

Is such pay excessive? I'm sure some donors and workers (especially those recently shown the door) will flinch, while others will use this as further evidence that MPR shouldn't get taxpayer cash. Still, we do have one other media-world data point: the recently bankrupt Star Tribune.

In court filings, the Strib — which in 2008 grossed $246 million, three times more than MPR/APM — disclosed that it paid its CFO $529,000, more than double Alfuth's pay. The Strib's top ad guy made $404,000, about $100,000 more than Gossett. In general, the next tier of MPR management makes as much or more than the Strib's.

I can't make a publisher-to-Kling comparison because outgoing Strib boss/part-owner Chris Harte worked for no salary after steering his ship into the financial weeds. And it's worth remembering that MPR — which sits on $110 million in assets and has a growing newsroom — had a far better year than the Strib.

[Update: As noted in my first piece, this information is 19 months old thanks to filing deadlines. Gossett, for example, is no longer with the company, and his national development position was eliminated in June. MPR also cut a vice president for corporate communications.]

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Comments (54)

Is that last line a Babe Ruth reference? I hope so.

I'm having a harder time accepting "blurred line" corporations - nonprofits with for-profit subsidiaries in particular, such as MPR and many religious organizations.

Didn't Mr Kling make more than 20 million when MPR sold one of it's for-profit subsidiaries?

Truly, i feel like a chump sending in my $20 per month. It doesn't pay Mr. Kling's coffee bill. And he can afford to pay it himself

Am I misremembering things, or is this the first time EVER that Bill Kling's total compensation package has been made public?

Never mind that Kling's compensation is half again more than is earned by the President of the United States.

I stopped giving to MPR years ago.

//Never mind that Kling's compensation is half again more than is earned by the President of the United States.

Being president is like owning a sports franchise. You make your money when you cash out. You get your book deal, and you get your $50,000 a pop speech schedule and you get your seat on the boards.

The Obamas' ADJUSTED gross income last year, by the way was nearly $2.7 million.

He did OK.

Couldn't Bill Kling just cut his salary and then write a book about it later?

Kling made $3 million in the Rivertown Trading sale by way of his "value participation units" (aka, stock).

This is something to think about during the next pledge drive.

Are we financing Bill Kling's personal empire building?

I think people think about lots of things during the pledge drives. In the end, people who become members do so because they get something of value out of public radio. People who don't contribute, obviously don't.

In context, MPR spent $78 million last year to develop and provide its programming and services. Here's the annual report:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/about/mpr/finance/annual_report_2008.pdf

Disclaimer: I work for the company and sit in the back of the room where the sunlight barely shines. I'm not a spokesman for MPR, I don't have any insight into the financial dealings, and I'm not providing information that can't be found with a Google search.

I also contribute almost $2,000 a year to MPR and I don't feel any need to apologize for doing so.

You try getting by in this town on $600K a year.

Bill Kling and his staff have created the best public radio station in the country if not the world. So why would anyone doubt his worth from a compensation perspective, especially since he has consistently created immense value for our community and is paid far less than executives who contribute nothing close to what Mr. Kling does. We have been contributing to MPR ever since coming here in 1989, often as a Leadership Circle member as we could afford to do so. I begrudge Bill Kling not a dime of his compensation of which I am honored to be a small part. Imagine if we got the same benefit from our health insurance executives as we get from MPR!!

//Imagine if we got the same benefit from our health insurance executives as we get from MPR!!

We don't?

I sense this is about to go from rancor over Kling's infamously secret (until now) compensation package to a grueling analysis of the value provided by MPR.

Did MPR provide value to the community when it bought and reformatted WCAL, replacing a pure classical music station with '80s modern rock?

Does MPR ever develop and run news critical of Minnesota-based corporations? Ever?

Has MPR ever considered having more than one or two non-DFL/IR analysts, or are they too poor to solicit the opinions of anyone but political hacks and Pol Sci profs?

Are a disproportionate share of MPR employees Collegeville grads? For years MPR was an extremely male-dominated organization. Is their workforce now reasonably well integrated or does it still mirror the student body at St. John's?

Could Mr. Hetterick please explain what benefit MPR listeners get from MPR executives? (His comparison was not to healthcare insurers but to their executives.) To the best of my knowledge no one outside of MPR understands their decision-making process. Does MPR ever let their "subscribers" vote on any of these decisions?

I don't listen to MPR anymore because I got tired of hearing the same crappy news you'd get from any corporate-owned news media.

I would argue that there isn't a single person in the world who "earns" $600,000 a year. Just a lot of folks who've leveraged their compensation to a size commensurate with their egos. If Bill Kling's MPR had exposed United Health Group's Bill McGuire's obscene compensation, I'd say maybe MPR is doing a great job. But they didn't, and I do not know of one single story they've ever broken about an organization that donates money to MPR.

No one is telling MPR to go to hell. Their critics consistently focus on one thing and one thing only: MPR's remarkable lack of transparency, especially regarding money.

//We don't?

All of these issues of value are subjective. Make your own judgment and apply your own values and decide your own cost/benefit analysis and then do whatever you need to do to satisfy it.

This is a predictable conversation in which people try to convince each other that their values should be your values and it doesn't go anywhere it hasn't been a million times before.

But face it, Brauer, you're loving the page views, baby!

Sadly, uniques are at least as important.

Actually, I am telling Kai Risdal and those other guys at Marketplace to go to hell. The Future Tense crew also. I'd really like to see Satan drinking out of a gourd made from their skulls. Man it felt good to say that! But I would like to defend the Current. "80s modern rock"? I have not heard a single Cars song on that station, ditto for Duran Duran, and I actually liked the Cars. And Duran Duran.

ps. If you guys don't like BK's salary you should just email him and say so. I did that once -- I just sort of popped off after feeling cranky one morning; I'm one of them there sustainers -- and he wrote me right back to say he had taken a pay cut. But it looks like he didn't take a very big one, eh?

//But it looks like he didn't take a very big one, eh?

Be mindful of David's warning about the dates involved here.

I'm not gonna complain about what these guys get paid. I just wish they produced better radio, and better news. I got stuck listening to MPR the other afternoon ( driving the car without satellite,and forgot my mp3 player). Someone somewhere probably has something interesting to say about the recent elections, but NPR didn't find them. And then there was 20 minutes with a NYTs restaurant guy and his list of complaints about restaurant servers... gripping stuff like how many people hate it when servers ask: "are you still working on that?". It'll be a long time before I forget to grab the satellite radio or mp3 again let me tell you. I did listen to Osterholm today though at midday, that was decent.

Everyone loves to hate people who make more money than they do. $600k is certainly not excessive for an executive.

I do think what's interesting is that the tone of some of the pledge drives would have you indicate that the stations are on the cusp of going off the air if you don't become a sustaining member. That's simply hard to believe when you visit the beautiful studios, or look at the pay of the chief exec.

But if members truly have a problem with it, I would presume they could speak loudly on the issue, and get results. What would the complainers find an acceptable salary? $100k? You're not going to find much of a CEO willing to work for that.

Also making more than the President: the head of the U of M, and probably most of your local lawyers and doctors. Kind of a cheap shot, in my opinion.

In the context of this thread "these guys" is MPR. But you reference NPR and then a piece about a restaurant critic going on for 20 minutes.

I can find nothing in our files for the last several months about a restaurant critic on any piece produced by MPR.

And the only NPR piece I can find was a Werthheimer interview on the death of the founder of Ben's Chili Bowl in DC.

I'm not saying what you heard didn't happen, but I'd like to find out what show it was on and when. Was it a news program? Local? National?

Clearly not everything produced on public radio is going to be of interest -- or please -- everyone. But anyone can cherrypick the offerings.

What do you usually listen to on satellite? What's on your mp3? And in their absence, why didn't you tune to something else?

What is it that lead you to tune to public radio in the first place?

Jason, I don't think the tone is the stations will go off the air. I do think the tone is that there's a relationship between resources and programming.

I was up talking with Mary Lucia on the Current the other day and she was talking about two initiatives that she enjoyed doing that have been cut because of -- let's face it -- the economic times: our live broadcasts from South by Southwest and Fakebook events at the Fitz.

Now maybe those two weren't your -- or somebody else's -- cup of tea, but they were clearly popular with somebody and, besides, I'm just using that as an example of the relationship between resources and programming.

You're right, we have beautiful facilities and I'd be happy to give anyone a tour of them anytime. That was the result of a capital campaign.

But you know what will impress you more than the facilities when you get one of my tours -- how many behind the scenes people there are to make great radio.

When the Current, for example, provides live music, you should see the genius that mixes it to make it sound great. He's been on tour with some of the greats in the business and I'm proud he works for us.

When there are political debates that we stage, or forums etc., you should see how many people it takes to pull it off. There's more to a radio program than the host, and people don't see that.

Those are resources that are every bit as important as nice studios. And that's the asset -- creativity, knowledge, experience -- that the membership drives fund.

Are we overpaid? I'll be happy to show you my 1040; you tell me. But MPR isn't a place where radio people start their career, and nobody worth anything is going to move to Minnesota to work in studios held together by duct tape and string.

Want the tour? You know where to find me.

Given the financial state of the media these days, I'm pretty sure MPR could find a talented replacement for Mr. Kling at a paltry $300,000, or less.

Think of the newsroom enhancements MPR could make if half of his compensation package went for that.

At the least, Mr. Kling could join Best Buy and other major MPR corporate supporters and offer a big Kling Challenge Grant during the next MPR pledge drive.

I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

I have rarely listened to MPR over the years because I find it boring and, worse, often offering a tedious and repetitious analysis of some rather uncontroversial matter. For example, MRP seems fond of analyzing to death the atrocities occurring in some impoverished country halfway around the world. Who would disagree the atrocities should stop? A lot of this seems to make the listener feel superior--the listener, of course, does not commit such atrocities.

//Given the financial state of the media these days, I'm pretty sure MPR could find a talented replacement for Mr. Kling at a paltry $300,000, or less

I'll be anxious to see a more current 990. I don't know when they're posted on GuideStar.

But your suggestion ignores the fact that a significant part of the reason the newsroom DOES have the resources it has is BECAUSE of Bill Kling.

So, sure, you can got plop somebody off the street with nowhere near his vision, and nowhere his ability to secure resources and plop him in the job.

But your assertion suggests it's a zero-sum game.

See, these responses, while interesting to read, are uninformed. Maybe they're right. Maybe they're wrong. But they're made before acquiring some pretty important information: What does Bill Kling do? How does what he does affect programming?

If you don't know the answer to that -- and thinking you know the answer to that isn't the same as knowing the answer to that -- then all you've really got is an uninformed opinion.

MPR is the most respected public radio station network in the country. It's the most respected broadcast news operation in Minnesota. If it's so easy to create that, and anybody can do it, then why don't they?

I'll hang up and listen?

Rebecca, if there's any justice in the world, Brauer will now set up a separate thread for you and Mark Gisleson to debate whether it's worth covering stories about transgressions NOT committed by the listener.

I would call in sick today to sit here and hit F5 all day for that one. (g)

The notion that but for the person of Bill Kling MPR and Minnesota radio in general would be that much the poorer is ridiculous in the extreme. In fact, MPR, through what can only be described as monopolistic tactics, and questionable behavior by a nonprofit, has sucked all the air out of public radio in this state.

The fact they have done this with a lot of public money, all the while displaying the opacity of a grapefruit, makes it all the more galling.

//In the context of this thread "these guys" is MPR. But you reference NPR and then a piece about a restaurant critic going on for 20 minutes.

I can find nothing in our files for the last several months about a restaurant critic on any piece produced by MPR.

See, this is one reason I don't visit the News Cut anymore, this puttsy crap. Dude, I was listening to MPR, I don't care who produced the program, that's what was being broadcast in the middle of the day on 91.1 FM. Are you denying that MPR broadcasts Talk of the Nation during the day? Are you denying that Talk of the Nation did a piece with the New York Times restaurant critic? Are you claiming that you can find no record of that broadcast? What exactly is your point? Is your point that 91.1 only produces what? 5-6 hours of it's own content during the day? Unfortunately that raises the question, what are you doing with all that money we're giving you? Does it really cost that much to re-broadcast other people's content all day? KFAI produces 20 hours of it's own content every day and no one over there is getting paid $600 grand a year.

But again, I don't want to complain about the money, I just wish the programming was better.

Elsewhere I've been having arguments about publicly funded pro sports stadiums, I'm agin em. I think MPR actually provides a really good example of public bang for the buck. I'm no accountant but if I read the tax statement correctly in exchange a little more than 6 million tax dollars we're get 36 stations, statewide coverage, I'm guessing 300+ jobs, and unique and useful programing that the commercial stations would never provide. The entire payroll for MPR is $30 million dollars, I think would cover maybe what, 6 or 7 Viking salaries? I may well be the odd man out on the programming, who knows if any suggestions I would make would increase listeners, I'm just saying...

I thought it interesting that less than $2 million of the $76 million revenue comes from members. The $1.5 million travel bill also caught my attention- who at MPR is doing a million and a half bucks of travel and where are they going?

Executive pay is out of control across the board in this country. We have the most overcompensated, mediocre executive class in the world. I'm sure you could find hundreds people who would do Kling's job just as well or better for half the amount of money. Hell, for $100,000 I'll give it a shot for 6 months, if I'm not working out I'll quit no strings attached. But this is a national issue, there's no reason to pick on MPR in particular.

I might add, Bob Collins, that you were pretty quick to dismiss Mark's arguments, only to then claim that Kling is somehow responsible for anything good that has ever happened at MPR.

You think that the creation of PBS had nothing to do with Kling's success? Or the fact that Minnesota is/was a state known for its civic generosity had anything to do with it? Or that fact that traditional media has pretty much tanked, and the bar for good journalism has been about as low as it ever was? Or the fact that MPR blended non-profit and for-profit enterprises in a way that has had a deleterious effect on the quality of the product.

It's hard to say where public radio would be without Kling around, but it's even harder to say it would be worse. You say MPR is the most respected public radio station in the country. So what! Where was MPR on the United Health story, or the Allina story years ago? Compromised by its corporate connections, that's where. MPR's overall goal is to breed an upscale audience that it can con out of contributions and sell trinkets to.

You are entitled to trumpet MPR's financial success, but not claim that it is some kind of moral qualification.

Bill Kling deserves praise, which I have given him in other postings, for making MPR a major media operation.

That does not mean that MPR would self-destruct now without him making $600,000 a year, or without him now being at the helm.

He was a creator. But does that mean he's the right guy now?

I think his compensation is a problem for MPR in raising money from the public, especially in these very tough economic times.

Non-profit entity and $600,000 CEO compensation packages are hard concepts to reconcile. My opinion is they can't be.

When I worked at the Star Tribune in the gravy days, we used to joke in the newsroom that just about anyone could be the publisher and be assured of showing a huge profit and looking good.

These are different times, and I have not seen the evidence that Mr. Kling at $600,000 a year is crucial to the current health or viability of MPR.

Let's be real about the state of media. Everyone is in trouble.

Newsroom and production positions and salaries are dropping like flies in print, TV, cable and radio.

So, why should the top people be immune from scrutiny for their pay or their true worth?

There are plenty of high executives in now distressed and recently successful media operations who have limited options should they leave their current employers. It's a buyer's market, even for them.

Can't replace Bill Kling? I don't believe it.

"See, these responses, while interesting to read, are uninformed. Maybe they're right. Maybe they're wrong. But they're made before acquiring some pretty important information: What does Bill Kling do? How does what he does affect programming? If you don't know the answer to that -- and thinking you know the answer to that isn't the same as knowing the answer to that -- then all you've really got is an uninformed opinion."

Q: Well, why are we uninformed? Aren't you supposed to be running the information network over there?" I like Bob from what I hear of him, and I like MPR, though I agree it is timid and predictable and humorless in the extreme. But it seems a little out of touch to tell a listener, upset about a CEO getting $600 grand -- and that is a lot of money, dude -- that they are uninformed.

//I might add, Bob Collins, that you were pretty quick to dismiss Mark's arguments, only to then claim that Kling is somehow responsible for anything good that has ever happened at MPR.

I know facts matter to you, Rob so I'm going to point out that the only part of Mark's argument I "dismissed" was the assertion that Kling made more money than Obama last year. He didn't.

Mark's certainly entitled to his opinion and I'm not saying he's right or he's wrong. People can have whatever opinion they wish to have.

I gave mine.

///You think that the creation of PBS had nothing to do with Kling's success?

Did I say that?

//Or the fact that Minnesota is/was a state known for its civic generosity had anything to do with it?

Did I say that? There's no question that the people responsible for the success of MPR are the people who support it. But which comes first? The reason for supporting it? Or the support for it?

Clearly there was a small amount of support for MPR years ago that has grown recently to more than 100,000 members, many of whom -- from what I hear on the pledge drives (I'm not involved in the pledge drives) references programming for their support. As I indicated, there is a link between resources and quality of programming and I believe there is a link between the vision that has guided MPR since its birth in a small room in Collegeville and what it is today.

That's what *I* believe. If you don't believe that; that's fine. But that's what *I* believe, and I don't apologize for believing it.

//Or that fact that traditional media has pretty much tanked, and the bar for good journalism has been about as low as it ever was?

Why do you think that is, Rob?

//Or the fact that MPR blended non-profit and for-profit enterprises in a way that has had a deleterious effect on the quality of the product.

No I don't believe that is has. And clearly the government forced public broadcasters to alternative means of supporting programming. MPR's crime, as I understand it, is rather than go toes up as so many public broadcasters did, they creatively met the challenge using the means that were available to them, considering the many restrictions imposed upon them by the U.S. Congress.

I don't see that as a character flaw. If you do, well, you do.

//It's hard to say where public radio would be without Kling around, but it's even harder to say it would be worse.

Obviously I disagree, although it's unclear to me when you use the term "public radio" whether you're referring to public radio system wide or MPR.

I also don't folow your logic. If it's hard to say where pubrad would be without Kling around, how can it not be hard to say it would be worse. How can you do that math without a basis of saying what it would be like without him. How do you make the comparison while denying yourself the comparison? It doesn't make sense to me.

// You say MPR is the most respected public radio station in the country. So what!

So some people value that and some people don't.

//MPR's overall goal is to breed an upscale audience that it can con out of contributions and sell trinkets to.

Well, we do have an upscale audience and there's a correlation between education and economic standing in life. We all know that; that's one reason why we think education is such a good idea and needs to be supported. In the end, it's good for all of us.

But I would dispute your suggestion that it's only about an "upscale audience." I challenge you to hop in a cab driven by a Somali immigrant in these parts. Chances are good they'll be listening to MPR. Why? Because they're smart and they know there's a good reason to be better informed.

Again, I don't see that as a character flaw.

//You are entitled to trumpet MPR's financial success, but not claim that it is some kind of moral qualification.

Well, Rob, I am entitled to do both of these things under Constitution of the United States. We are allowed to have opinions and perspective. What we are not allowed to do is expect to impose those on others merely because that's what we believe.

And I believe I've said numerous times here that I more than respect the rights of others to hold their opinions on this subject and to react to whatever values they possess. I don't how to make that any clearer to you, although I suspect I'll try some more.

//Well, why are we uninformed? Aren't you supposed to be running the information network over there?"

Me personally? I write a blog. (g)

//I like Bob from what I hear of him, and I like MPR, though I agree it is timid and predictable and humorless in the extreme.

There's nothing there that I disagree with and have written about from time to time.

// But it seems a little out of touch to tell a listener, upset about a CEO getting $600 grand -- and that is a lot of money, dude -- that they are uninformed.

It would be out of touch if that's what I said. But that's not what I said. What I said was in order to evaluate whether someone is worth $600 million, and if you believe replacing him with someone else is a zero sum game in terms of resources, you HAVE to know what it is does and what effect what he does have on those resources. That's a mathematical equation.

And I believe that's true. But that's a lot different than saying you're uninformed because you're upset that he makes what David says he's making.

//Non-profit entity and $600,000 CEO compensation packages are hard concepts to reconcile. My opinion is they can't be.

From David wrote -- based on a fairly dated 990 -- is that the non profit entity was $373,254. That's not far from what someone up above said would be reasonable compensation. There is, obviously, a for-profit part of this equation.

//These are different times, and I have not seen the evidence that Mr. Kling at $600,000 a year is crucial to the current health or viability of MPR.

Well, again, the 990 is from "different times" too.

//Let's be real about the state of media. Everyone is in trouble.

And yet while the media that's in trouble was slashing its news staffs, cutting publishing days and leading with happy talk stories about the secrets of marriage, MPR not only preserved its news committment, it's spent money to INCREASE it. Why? Because these aren't the kind of times when it's in anyone's best interest to make people less informed.

We put more money into news, not less.

It sounds like you're saying that's a good thing. But in order for your point to register with me, you'd also have to say that decision -- a pretty damned gutsy one in my view -- has little or nothing to do with the leadership of the company. I don't see how that adds up.

//Newsroom and production positions and salaries are dropping like flies in print, TV, cable and radio.

See above.

//So, why should the top people be immune from scrutiny for their pay or their true worth?

Who is saying their pay should not be scrutinized? Who's saying their "true worth" shouldn't be evaluated? Someone indicated above that salaries were cut at the top and some people at the top are no longer with the company. I don't know by how much their salaries were cut; I'll find out when the rest of you do -- when the next 990 is posted.

//There are plenty of high executives in now distressed and recently successful media operations who have limited options should they leave their current employers. It's a buyer's market, even for them.

Why would we want to replace the management of a company that is increasing its committment to information and programming with leaders of companies who were at least partially responsible for the systematic dismantling of newsrooms and quality programming?

Wow, all of this hair splitting is giving me a migraine. Bob, intentionally or not, you have set yourself into this issue as the defender of this salary that may or may not exist -- go ask the wizard after applying the secret knock. A more successful strategy might be to acknowledge that people who pay $20 a month have every right to wonder how much of that is going to recarpet the Kling Home Theater System. But that of course is uninformed because we all are uninformed.

A "mathematical equation"! Looking more outoftouchish by the minute here...ps, was that a Freudian slip that you just said Kling gets $600 million?

Ok Bob.

///You think that the creation of PBS had nothing to do with Kling's success?

"Did I say that?"

You certainly implied it. You said:

"But your suggestion ignores the fact that a significant part of the reason the newsroom DOES have the resources it has is BECAUSE of Bill Kling."

//Or that fact that traditional media has pretty much tanked, and the bar for good journalism has been about as low as it ever was?

"Why do you think that is, Rob?"

That is a conversation that would require at least a book, as you know.

//Or the fact that MPR blended non-profit and for-profit enterprises in a way that has had a deleterious effect on the quality of the product.

"No I don't believe that is has."

Try listening to MPR for an hour and tell me it is not dishonest. It is barred from running advertising. I hear advertising every 15 minutes or so.

"But I would dispute your suggestion that it's only about an "upscale audience."

Oh please - Sound Money, Splendid Table, Saavy Traveler, etc. All designed to cultivate an upscale audience. MPR brags about this cultivation on their own website.

"...I am entitled to do both of these things under Constitution of the United States..."

Wow - just, WOW! Yes, you are entitled under the constitution. I was making the argument that your assertion of moral superiority for MPR was unjustified. I guess you didn't get that.

In defense of MPR, I will say that the workers aren't overpaid, and the overall product is better than you'll find elsewhere (better than Wisconsin public radio at any rate).

And I'm floored to learn that Bob Collins gives $2k a year to MPR. I knew an MPR employee years ago who adamantly opposed employees donating because they were already taking a cut from private sector pay rates. I'm sure lots of private sector companies wish their employees were half as gung ho.

I'd like to return to my original point: MPR needs to be more transparent. That or stop calling itself PUBLIC radio.

Public implies owned by the people. MPR is not. Public implies transparency. MPR is anything but. Public suggests serving the public. MPR is very much focused on their donor demographic (Sound Money, Splendid Table, The Current). Public services are supposed to be accountable. Who is MPR accountable to?

But mostly I'd love it if David would tell us how many uniques this thread has attracted as I suspect this argument is being conducted for the benefit of the arguers only. None of this is spilling over into the local media. Check out Google News and see for yourself:

http://tinyurl.com/ydjpc2c

MPR does whatever it wants to, and so long as Minnesotans keep ponying up the dough, they're not going to change anything. MPR's not going to report that someone figured out Bill Kling's compensation package (or at least part of it). The Strib and PiPress will continue to ignore this story. None of the local TV stations will mention it, and neither will the radio stations.

No matter what you think about Bill Kling's pay, why is it that no other local media thinks his pay is newsworthy?

//Wow, all of this hair splitting

One person's split hair is another person's fact. (g)

//as the defender of this salary that may or may not exist -- go ask the wizard after applying the secret knock.

I don't know what that means and it's not for me to defend anything. I guess I would refer you to a nice post David made about me and my nature a week or so ago. I tend not to take up the pitchforks while there are still questions to be asked and knowledge to be gained. I'm kinda strange that way.

//A more successful strategy might be to acknowledge that people who pay $20 a month have every right to wonder how much of that is going to recarpet the Kling Home Theater System.

Again, I'm not sure why people are suggesting that I'm saying people don't have a right to question anything. They can question anything they want.

//But that of course is uninformed because we all are uninformed.

You know, I put so much information in some previous posts that you could actually use in a good discussion that might lead to me to look at things with a new perspective, or it might make you look at things with a new perspective (no, that doesn't mean either one of us has to change our opinion).

So when you rejigger what I've said and just go with a sarcastic revision, that's designed to stop a productive conversation and take it a new direction that isn't very interesting or productive.

What do you say we just not do it the usual Internet comment way and actually respect what one another is saying to quote it and characterize it accurately and honestly?

//A "mathematical equation"! Looking more outoftouchish by the minute here...ps, was that a Freudian slip that you just said Kling gets $600 million?

No it wasn't Freudian. I type fast. But the point is still out there unanswered. you can't say -- unless I'm missing something -- that removing a Bill Kling from MPR would have no effect, while at the same time saying you can't -- or it's hard to -- say what MPR without Bill Kling would look like.

Maybe you're right. Maybe it wouldn't. Or maybe you're wrong and it would. I'd like to have as much data in that calculation as I could before making such a decision. I think more information is good in making calculation like that.

//"But your suggestion ignores the fact that a significant part of the reason the newsroom DOES have the resources it has is BECAUSE of Bill Kling."

Yeah, I said that. But what does that have to do with PBS and how does imply that I've invoked PBS?

//Try listening to MPR for an hour and tell me it is not dishonest. It is barred from running advertising. I hear advertising every 15 minutes or so.

The rules are not so simple as to say "advertising is banned." The rules can be found here:

http://www.fcc.gov/mb/audio/nature.html#ANNOUNCEMENTS

If you think the rules are being violated, I would certainly be interested in knowing that. So pick any of those guidelines and pick whatever announcement you hear and let's identify them.

//Oh please - Sound Money, Splendid Table, Saavy Traveler, etc. All designed to cultivate an upscale audience.

I suppose people could say the same thing about Minnesota Orchestra or classical music, then again, someone else might suggest that the White Stripes are the tonic for the poor. I don't know.

But what is upscale to you? And why wouldn't someone making -- pick a number, any number -- not like Saavy Traveler? Or Wait Wait Don't Tell Me? Or Car Talk? Or A Prairie Home Companion? Or Midmorning? Or Steve Seel? Or Mary Lucia? Or Talk of the Nation? Or The World? Or The Story?

Now, when I started in the radio business and my cubicle was next to Marconi, I made $110 a week. I've never been out of the United States except to cross into Canada to get to New York, I don't drink wine or tea, I mow my own lawn and I drive a 2004 Chevy Cavalier which I bought with money I made by taking a second job delivering the Pioneer Press while I worked at MPR. And yet, I love most -- not all -- of those shows.

Am I upscale? Am I informed? As near as I can tell, I fit -- almost exactly -- the average income earner for a household in Minnesota.

//MPR brags about this cultivation on their own website.

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to but here's the mission statement:

Our Mission is to enrich the mind and nourish the spirit, thereby assisting our audiences to enhance their lives, expand perspectives and strengthen their communities.

Here's our vision:

We will be the most relevant, innovative and insightful media company in America.

and here's the strategy:

We will create indispensible content that engages with diverse audiences to connect people with each other, their communities, their country, and the world.

//I was making the argument that your assertion of moral superiority for MPR was unjustified. I guess you didn't get that.

I'm not sure what you mean by moral superiority for MPR. Do I think MPR is a superior company? I do. Do I think I'm superior to you. I do not. Do I think the desire for knowledge and information -- whether we're listening to the radio or discussing issues on a blog -- is a moral imperative? I do.

and I think you do, too, and I think it forms the basis for your criticism that you've leveled over the years, Rob. I don't agree with a lot of it, of course, but I think it comes from a similar place that my opposite opinion comes from.

I guess the difference here is that you are dealing very much in a highly logic-driven approach to the market value for a salary, a salary that I and presumably others see as an image problem, logical or no. I would say we both are trying to be productive in our own ways. I clearly am not holding a pitchfork, as MPR has monthly access to my checking account. Say Hi to Looch for me.

//And I'm floored to learn that Bob Collins gives $2k a year to MPR. I knew an MPR employee years ago who adamantly opposed employees donating because they were already taking a cut from private sector pay rates. I'm sure lots of private sector companies wish their employees were half as gung ho.

You know, I "grew up" in commercial radio and I hated public radio. I've said many times -- including on MPR pledge drives -- that I distaste immensely those occasions when public radio defined itself by not being commercial radio. I just eulogize a guy -- my father in law -- who was everything commercial radio should be ( http://rvbuildershotline.com/bob/don/), so I still take it as an insult when I hear that, and -- yeah -- occasionally I do hear that.

I was prepared when I moved here to work in public radio for a few years, and then go to a commercial station in town. So what happened? MPR evolved and I evolved. I see the work people here do, I know the upper management, I know how supportive they've been to all of us, I know the committment they have.

There are things I hate about my workplace just like everyone else, but I think it's on of the few places in this business where people in my profession generally go to work every day thinking that we can be better than we were yesterday.

Sappy and syrupy? Yeah. And that should mean something because you know me, Mark, and you know those are not two adjectives that anybody has ever used to describe me.

Now, I haven't read the rest of your post yet but I'm prepared for your skewering. (g0

//Public implies owned by the people. MPR is not. Public implies transparency. MPR is anything but. Public suggests serving the public. MPR is very much focused on their donor demographic (Sound Money, Splendid Table, The Current). Public services are supposed to be accountable. Who is MPR accountable to?

I'm not asking this rhetorically. What would your vision of how this would all work? You've touched on a number of different areas here -- the business end, the programming end -- and invoked "accountable." Let's take programming-wise, I guess. What does that look like?

//MPR does whatever it wants to, and so long as Minnesotans keep ponying up the dough, they're not going to change anything.

I make my living writing a blog and I try to write stuff that's relevant and might lead to a discussion or might benefit -- somehow -- the people who read it. I think my colleagues do the same. I don't know how I would look in the mirror each day under the scenario you've outlined here.

and I'm pretty sure that if I did approach my job that way, I will not make it to retirement age at MPR, which is something I'd really like to do.

//No matter what you think about Bill Kling's pay, why is it that no other local media thinks his pay is newsworthy?

I assume that one IS rhetorical?

// Say Hi to Looch for me.

Drop me an email (bcolins@mpr.org), and I'll give you the tour and you can do that.

Just to draw out my point about executive pay a little. I've noticed this claim/praise for Mr. kling as the builder of whatever over at MPR. That's exactly my point about US executives, many of them are way overcompensated precisely because they haven't built anything, they stepped into organizations that were created in most cases decades ago by other talented executives and entrepreneurs. Whether it be car companies, Universitys, or public radio stations, these guys aren't really producing or creating anything, they move deck chairs around, and we celebrate it as inovation. Kling didn't create MPR, and as I pointed out earlier MPR doesn't even produce that much original content. Did Kling create Prairie Home Companion? Midmorning? Midday? I'm just asking I really don't know.

We get into these circular arguments for executive pay, they make what they make because they're worth it, and they're worth it because they paid so much. The fact is it's really really hard to figure out the worth of people who don't actually produce anything. If you look closely at arguments for these big pay packages(and since $300,000 is six times the median income the U.S., it is a big pay package), no one ever tries to argue that these guys actually earn their pay. What you get are bizarre arguments about how much "value" they bring to the organization, but those arguments are incoherent because there's no way to actually make such a calculation.

In the end the reason these get paid so much is simply because they bring their lawyers, and their compensation is in the contract. People assume they wouldn't get paid so much unless they are worth it and round and round it goes. The huge packages themselves create their own justification. And I think it breeds mediocrity, way over compensated mediocrity.

I must say as far as news is concerned, I don't see that MPR really has much to brag about. Had they foreseen the financial collapse, not jumped on the WMD band wagon, and figured out a way to get informed guests with interesting things to say about stuff (instead of partisan hacks of various colors) I might be tempted to cut them some slack. The fact is I get better and more reliable news and information elsewhere. Minnpost for one.

Bob, I can see you are a busy man today. My condolences.

You keep referencing 990s not yet posted. Are you suggesting Kling has taken a salary haircut we don't know? Or that other changes have been made that answer some of these question?

Hey, just tell us if that's so. No need to wait for the next 990. MPR can do that on it's own right now.

You also don't answer the issue about asking the public for money when your CEO at last report is making $600,000. How does that help MPR in fund-raising?

Finally, I don't buy your suggestion that Kling is the only media exec out there who could lead MPR. I totally disagree.

Can't resist: Listen to this interview with Richard Perle from 2004 and tell me again about the great quality of MPR:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/midmorning/2004/01/midmorni...

David Brauer, I thought this story prompts a much needed discussion about executive compensation in the nonprofit sector. A $600,000 package for a $70 to $80 million per year operation is very high especially when a publicly held corporation might pay the CEO $450,000 to $500,000 for managing a business with $250 million in revenues. And, of course, the governor of the State of Minnesota has a package of about $150,000 for managing an operation with a budget in the billions.

I am heartened that membership contributions are so low. This means the appeal to snobbery is not working so well. I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggested MPR's interest is in appealing to an upscale audience that buys trinkets and gives money. I have noticed a fair amount of hubris in the voices of those who claim to contribute to MPR or who have purchased some gizmo from MPR. This is something like wearing legible clothing. There is nothing like a t-short that says "Picasso" to convey the message "I am cultured" or "I am educated".

Sometimes I think being passionate about MPR is about like being passionate about pablum. I agree with another poster that the programming needs more substance.

//In the end the reason these get paid so much is simply because they bring their lawyers, and their compensation is in the contract. People assume they wouldn't get paid so much unless they are worth it and round and round it goes. The huge packages themselves create their own justification. And I think it breeds mediocrity, way over compensated mediocrity.

What you're comparing the situation of the thread to, though, is different. In most every case, the CEOs of these companies have moved into established companies. And even look in the TC. A guy moves in from Connecticut, takes over 3M, stays a few years, closes a few places (because he trained under GE and that's what they do), then leaves and goes to Chicago to run Boeing (into the ground).

That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a guy who started the organization by stringing a wire up the radiator pipe in his dorm room at St. John's. No lie.

I don't know enough about APHC's genesis to say that Kling started it. I've heard the first PHC show and it was horrible, in my opinion, and he at least gets credit for not pulling it off after the first show. (g)

But the resources that have created those shows are certainly tied to Bill's work and it really isn't a stretch to say whatever MPR is -- and I'm sorry you don't care for it -- is a reflection of his vision.

In any event, that's a whole 'nother reality from the usual CEO debate.

I hate it when an angry public tries to micromanage institutions. The fact of the matter is, institutions spend money differently than individuals. $600K sounds like a lot to us paltry under $100K'ers out there, but it's the norm for executive pay. Just like I'm sure many of you would balk at what MPR pays for, say, office furniture.

"$200 for a desk chair? I could get one at a garage sale for $30!"
...Or toilet paper, "The employees can bring their own toilet paper, I don't want public money to pay for employees wiping their asses!"

$600K sounds like a lot when you look at it with a magnifying glass, but it's on par with executive compensation, especially for a guy that built the institution from the ground up. If you don't like it, don't donate, but this micromanaging has got to stop.

...oh, and as for Mark's assertion that MPR is filled with St. John's grads, I assure you, as a Johnnie who has been trying to get into the organization for over a year now, there's no favoritism. The Collegeville station has a staff that you can count on one hand, I believe - none of whom are Johnnies. MPR has outgrown its humble beginnings.

//I can see you are a busy man today. My condolences.

Heh. Just for the record, my day starts at 5:30 a.m. when I start writing 5@8 and ends around 7 p.m.

//You keep referencing 990s not yet posted. Are you suggesting Kling has taken a salary haircut we don't know?

I believe someone posted above that they got an email from Bill saying that, yes. I'm pretty sure it's been reported that we all got a salary freeze last year. Beyond that, I honestly don't recall what I might've heard about other aspects of compensation here because I really only know my situation and even if I were smart to know company inside information, that would mean I'd also be smart enough not to post it on MinnPost.

//You also don't answer the issue about asking the public for money when your CEO at last report is making $600,000. How does that help MPR in fund-raising?

I don't know enough about fundraising to be a source of information for you. I know that David's numbers for CEO of MPR are different than what you've quoted. I'm not here as the spokesman for MPR. I'm here as a guy who works there and is proud of the place and may have some perspective that others might find useful.

Is salary a hindrance to fundraising? Some people here have said so, but others have said they don't listen to MPR, so they're not going to be supporters anyway. We know that people stop giving to MPR for various stated reasons -- whether it's the cancellation of a show or a guy's salary or whatever -- and we know those who do decide to support MPR, do so for various reasons too.

What am I supposed to do? What I always do. I make a decision about whether I want to support the company and if so, how much? And I offer to show people around a company that I think is terrific asset to Minnesota and maybe show them a side of what MPR is that bloggers and others don't see or don't about and then let those people decide for themselves.

//Finally, I don't buy your suggestion that Kling is the only media exec out there who could lead MPR. I totally disagree.

Well, again, that's not what I said at all.

What I said was:

"Why would we want to replace the management of a company that is increasing its committment to information and programming with leaders of companies who were at least partially responsible for the systematic dismantling of newsrooms and quality programming?"

(Piggybacking an earlier comment by another poster)

//The fact is I get better and more reliable news and information elsewhere. Minnpost for one.

Well, then you can thank MPR because if you go back and look at some of Joel Kramer's comments when he was putting together MinnPost, you'll see he cited MPR as a model.

//of course, the governor of the State of Minnesota has a package of about $150,000 for managing an operation with a budget in the billions.

Thanks for the softball. While MPR is increasing its committment to programming and news (which, really, you wouldn't know about because you indicate you rarely listen), the state is about to enter its second biennium with massive debt, is about to cut health care for poor people, and isn't able to create jobs.

So, maybe that $150,000 looks like a fair trade because it's $150,000, but it gets back to Babe Ruth's famous line.

//I am heartened that membership contributions are so low.

What are you talking about, we just passed 100,000 members?

//I have noticed a fair amount of hubris in the voices of those who claim to contribute to MPR or who have purchased some gizmo from MPR. This is something like wearing legible clothing. There is nothing like a t-short that says "Picasso" to convey the message "I am cultured" or "I am educated".

OK, so really we're off the whole salary thing now and really what's at the heart of this is you don't like people who listen to MPR?

//Sometimes I think being passionate about MPR is about like being passionate about pablum.

I really don't know how to apologize for loving what I do for a living and where I do it.

You say you don't listen to the programming but you think it's boring. Take a day sometime and listen and then send me your thoughts. I'd be interested in what you think.

I'd also be interested in what you listen to during your day that isn't boring.

Bob, there is a certain amount of schizophrenia in some of our comments because I suspect that at one time or another all of us have loved MPR's programming. I for one still miss Katherine Lanpher who, imho, did the Midmorning show better than anyone before or since.

I don't blame MPR for delivering NPR's pro-Zionist/anti-Iranian propaganda. MPR doesn't slice and dice the NPR feed anymore so I can't hold you responsible for their slant.

I don't blame MPR for NPR letting their folks go on Fox News to degrade the NPR brand. Gary Eichten and Keri Miller aren't regulars on Fox 9 so there's no there there. (But I am looking forward to seeing what your new partnership thing with newspapers will be about.)

I don't blame MPR for my not liking Keri Miller. It's hard to replace talent like Lanpher's. But I do blame MPR for not developing talent. For such a large operation there are so very few voices you put on the air (except at fundraising time).

And I do blame MPR for buying into Wall Street economics so aggressively. When I listened barely a day would go by in which I didn't feel like some sort of mutant zombie slug for not having a 401(k) or a need for investment advice. Otoh, every now and then you have/had? Amy Lindgren on and she gives advice of the kind almost everyone can use.

It's a love/hate thing, no doubt about it. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that people here are hating on the Klingdom more than MPR. In Iowa, I could name several people who put as much time into their public radio as Bill Kling has MPR, but Iowa public radio being actually public, they never got rich.

I guess that's my issue here. Bill Kling is rich. How many other people at the state level have gotten rich from doing public radio? And is MPR really public?

More transparency would put an end to all of this. And Bob? Next year just give MPR a $1,000 back. You've given them more than a $1,000 worth of cover in this thread and should feel free to bill them at consultant rates.

//Next year just give MPR a $1,000 back. You've given them more than a $1,000 worth of cover in this thread and should feel free to bill them at consultant rates.

Son #2 is out of school and working. That's the last of my tax deductions for children. They're all gone. I'm going to need more charitable deductions! (g)

I just looked at Kling's bio at Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hugh_Kling

I'm impressed seriously. Bob is correct, the guy built MPR so I'd be inclined class him as a non-mediocre executive. He may well have earned his salary and compensation. The only thing that gives me pause is what happens when he leaves? Does the new guy or gal get the same deal for stepping into someone elses shoes? The other thing that raises an eyebrow is all the other stuff he's doing, he's has several other revenue streams besides MPR, so how much time is really spending at MPR? I hope that million bucks of travel isn't him going back and forth between his other jobs at MPR's expense. It would be interesting to see his salary arc over time. I'd be inclined to cut him more slack if he spent the first 20 years working for peanuts for instance.