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Executive pay at MPR, APM under scrutiny after 28 layoffs

The latest cuts were announced on Tuesday.
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The cull of 28 employees at Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media on Tuesday has thrown a spotlight onto the levels of executive pay at the radio and news organization.

The latest cuts saw workers including multimedia producer Nate Ryan, director of communications Angie Andresen, and podcast producer Jeyca Maldonado lose their jobs, among others, and follows on from 14 voluntary buyouts taken in May that saw MPR News director Laura McCallum depart.

In the wake of Tuesday's cuts, attention turned to the pay levels of the senior leaders within MPR/APM.

As part of pandemic-enforced cost-cutting measures, MPR/APM has implemented executive pay cuts ranging from 20 to 35 percent to stave off job losses. It has also frozen the planned 2.5 percent pay bump for salaried employees.

How much were they paid?

A look at MPR/APMs most recent 990 tax filing, a requirement for tax-exempt organizations, reveals that in the financial year ending June 30, 2019, there were 20 individuals included in its disclosure list for "Officers, Directors, Trustees, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees."

The total compensation for these workers – including salary, health benefits, retirement contributions, and service awards – ranged from $233,705 to $753,990.

Of those individuals, only two of them are on-air talent: Marketplace hosts Kai Ryssdal who earned $400,004 plus $46,864 in "other compensation" (retirement, health contributions) etc., and David Brancaccio, who earned $358,785 plus $21,188 in other compensation.

The highest earner was American Public Media Group President and CEO Jon McTaggart, who was paid $710,214 plus $43,776.

In total, these top 20 earners received total compensation of $7,552,902 in a year in which the organization posted a total revenue of $112,105,078, of which $84 million came from member donations and grants.

The 2018/19 pay for McTaggart was higher than that of Jarl Mohn, the President and CEO of National Public Radio, who was paid $646,129 plus $19,806 in other benefits in the same year.

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NPR made more than twice as much as MPR in that year, with total revenue of a little over $250 million.

The positions included in the top earners at MPR/APM include a wide range of executive and senior officer roles, including chief marketing officer, general counsel officer, senior-VP of human resources, and chief digital officer.

The loss of so many roles in the newsroom and in the organization's audio and visual departments in recent months have led to comment about the level of executive pay this week, not least from APM Reports associate producer Alex Baumhardt, who has been tweeting about executive pay since the cuts were announced.

She notes that McTaggart's 35 percent pay cut this year should be seen in the context that the pay for the APM CEO has increased almost $170,000 in the previous five years.

BMTN sent a series of questions regarding the levels of executive pay to MPR/APM, and received the following response:

"We follow our long-standing personnel policies and do not provide information on the terms of employment for any employee, including details about individual compensation. The Human Resources & Compensation Committee of the Board sets the compensation philosophy for the organization, relies on independent compensation advisors, uses best practices, and is responsible for decisions regarding CEO pay. Executive compensation is included in our annual 990’s and we make these reports available on our public websites."

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