WLRN Exec Makes $400,000 While On-Air Employees Face Cutbacks

Categories: Media Watch

Microphone_wiki_ChrisEngelsma.jpg
Chris Engelsma via Wikimedia Commons
These are trying times at WLRN. All media companies are struggling to shake off the death grip of declining ad revenue (New Times being no exception). The past year has been particularly turbulent for South Florida's award-winning public radio station, however. WLRN's best-known host, Phil Latzman, was canned in mid-July. A week earlier, news director Dan Grech was fired. And, as New Times reported last month, Miami-Dade County Public Schools slashed the hours of WLRN part-timers to avoid paying for their health care.

But amid all this turmoil, one side of the station is booming: its fundraiser.

See also: Miami-Dade Public Schools and WLRN Make Serious Cuts, Supposedly Because of Obamacare

Friends of WLRN is a private, nonprofit company created to raise money for the public radio station. Yet, as WLRN employees watch their wages shrink, Friends executives are making more than ever. Michael Peyton, the director of corporate marketing, pulls in $400,000 a year.

"He makes that kind of money on the backs of other people," says one WLRN employee who asked not to be identified for fear of being fired. "That's more than ten times what most of us make."

The discrepancy in pay is just one symptom of the strange relationship between WLRN and its fundraiser. "They are two separate, very distinct organizations," says Miami-Dade Schools spokesman John Schuster. "They have separate structures with distinct purposes, although at times their missions do overlap."

Few donors realize the difference. When WLRN holds a telethon, money donated doesn't go directly to the station. Instead, it belongs to Friends of WLRN, which can keep as much of it as it likes.

Executives from WLRN and Friends of WLRN refused to comment for this story. According to Schuster, Friends contributes roughly $5.2 million to the radio station each year. Meanwhile, records show Friends spent nearly $1.8 million in salaries in 2011 -- the last year available -- including $700,000 for just three execs.

Latzman_WLRN_wiki_dept_of_state.jpg
U.S. Dept. of State via Wikimedia Commons
Former WLRN host Phil Latzman
Public officials have frequently criticized Friends' spending.

In a 2010 audit meeting, Miami-Dade Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho slammed the nonprofit. "Superintendent Carvalho expressed dissatisfaction with [Friends treasurer Charles] Tatelbaum's explanation on the high salaries and said he was extremely disturbed," according to minutes of the meeting.

"He noted that, as the CEO of the M-DCPS, who is responsible for a budget close to $6 billion and with assets close to $9 billion, he does not make close to what one of the salespersons earns."

Since Carvalho complained, Friends' salesperson salaries have risen steadily.

On January 15, school board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman introduced a measure requiring quarterly reports "on the actions and status of Friends of WLRN, Inc."

Such scrutiny is long overdue, says the WLRN employee.

"People give money to WLRN because they trust us and they believe in what we do," the employee says. "But the money just goes to Friends."

"They are going to bring in $10 million this year, but what are they doing with that money?" the employee asks. "It disappears into the great Friends black hole. I guess it goes into Michael Peyton's pockets and God knows where else."

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28 comments
frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................funny but the station recently aired a segment of a guy who claimed fund-raisers whould operate with a profit motive and be self-sustaining to be continually functional and perpetually generating resources of which it is ethically and morally as well as legally entitled to it's share (fair or otherwise) AND that society is better off with well-paid productive solicitors than nickle-and-dime bake sales as fund raisers will always cost a premium to promote and create attention towards a cause

IF i raise a million dollars per year for YOU what should i get ?

my thinking is let it go to the best offer open to the community that guarantees the million is raised = period

this way IF it is very difficult and risky then the COMMISSION would have to be large AND IF a bunch of retired volunteers can guarantee to raise the same amount then let them at it for posterity (BUT those same retirees will have to find someone who will FINANCIALLY back their promise to make good on the total to be raised)

there were quite a number of very resourceful efforts to sell WAR BONDs during WWII and i see the same opportunity for success here

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

......................maybe we should be happy that they are stealing only 25% of the total

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..................................is nothing in SOUTH FLORIDA legitimate ?

Steve Klare
Steve Klare

400 grand is a grand theft of tax payer dollars!!!!!

Humberto Troitino
Humberto Troitino

Also, screw private ads, their greedy bastard CEO, and money. Yes, money. Money corrupts everything it goes into. Even individual people.

Humberto Troitino
Humberto Troitino

I may be 22 years old and of a lower income, but I listen to jazz, reggae, world music, and world news, thanks to them! Out of all the shit American media outlets, NPR is the best (whether or not that means anything is subjective). I love NPR!

FatHand
FatHand

Wait, does this include money given during their on-air pledge drives? The money they say on air goes directly to the programming? If so, that makes it hard to justify donating to those drives, as much as WLRN is a fine radio station. That's messed up. 

CThom
CThom

Disgusting.  As usual, the rich get richer, while those seeking to serve the public on the radio get screwed.  BTW, I am so sick of the radio station broadcasting the school board meetings on Wednesday when I need to hear the news.

sophie.my2cents
sophie.my2cents

Thanks, New Times.Hope the school board is listening to the station they OWN.The quality we’ve come to expect won’t be around much longer if Friends and the WLRN management keep pocketing the money instead of providing living wages for their employees.Peyton et al. have no concern for the people who actually make their lives so luxurious.I’m not against people making money but I am against anyone making their money at the expense of others.

Dan Marino
Dan Marino

The station, both radio and television are needed in this garbage radio/television that is here in South Florida, but the salary is way too high.

Betty Perez
Betty Perez

CEO 's everywhere figure out how to hog all the $$$. Kick his ass out and bring back talent.

Larry Herrero
Larry Herrero

Times have changed and it's about time that NPR realizes that it can live alone from donated funds. If they open up to advertising they could compete with cable and network channels. Sure, no commercials but what about every twenty minutes having a ten minute plug for "send us money if you want to see more of this".

Ayal Factor
Ayal Factor

Shouldn't be called public radio. It's really liberal loudspeaker....time for a name change.

Alex Anico
Alex Anico

Because it's local public radio that's why.

Karja C Hansen
Karja C Hansen

Also, have you actually looked into WLRN (or any NRP affiliate's) budget? Tax dollars are actually not a very big piece of that pie.

Gene Ore
Gene Ore

Nice they run it like a city or county runs their expenses, except much worse!!!! ridiculous salaries!!!!

Matt Hirschenbein
Matt Hirschenbein

Karja is dead on. The problem is the funds are being mismanaged at the station, not that they pay for local public radio... which is a great thing.

Exiliado
Exiliado topcommenter

So basically these people are using WLRN (its name and its resources) as a front to run a scam.


Why are they allowed to do so?


The Miami Dade County Public Schools owns the station. What is The Board waiting for? 

Karja C Hansen
Karja C Hansen

UM, that is an awful thing to say with the posting of this story. Our tax dollars supporting local public radio is one of the few good things they do. That is not the problem, the Entitled Exec/CEO is, and its not limited to WLRN. if you're going to report, at least get the issues right.

jericho4119
jericho4119

What, because conservatives don't like hearing what is going on with local government? Or is it that conservatives don't like hearing about local events like Art Basel or the Miami Book Fair International?


Just what, exactly, makes WLRN a "liberal loudspeaker?"

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