What’s the pay scale for a rookie network news correspondent with no news experience whatsoever?
Six-hundred thousand bucks!!!!
That’s according to Politico’s Dylan Byers and Maggie Haberman, who report that a prospect who came on board NBC News in November 2011 snared just that level of annual compensation. She was hired to do feel-good stories as part of NBC News’s “Making a Difference” franchise. Her name is Chelsea Clinton.
If that name hadn’t been connected to American royalty, she could have expected to rake in between $100,000 and $200,000 as a first-year network correspondent, a job that people from less-high-profile families snare only through years and years of tireless work covering the news. That salary range is confirmed by several people familiar with the compensation levels at major network news outlets.
“I’m sure that that salary figure is going to make other NBC correspondents’ heads spin right off their shoulders,” says one of those sources.
A spokeswoman for NBC News declined to elaborate on a statement released to Politico, which, of course, refused comment on contractual arrangements.
Life for an NBC News correspondent can be hectic. Events mess with your life. Television and the Web are demanding. Have a look at the recent work of Tom Costello, a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for NBC News. According to Nexis, Costello:
• On June 10 did a story for “NBC Nightly News” on the diabetes epidemic.
• On June 10 did a story for the “Today” show on a fatal limo accident in New Jersey.
• On June 9 did a story for “NBC Nightly News” on the New Jersey accident.
• On June 5 did a story for “NBC Nightly News” on the General Motors safety scandal.
• On June 4 did a story for the “Today” show on news regarding missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
• On June 4 did a story for “NBC Nightly News” about people pointing lasers at aircraft.
• On June 3 did a story for “NBC Nightly News” on food-borne illnesses.
Idea established: A network correspondent job can be a nonstop experience. A Nexis byline search for “Tom Costello” on NBC News transcripts in the period since Chelsea Clinton started at NBC News fetches 413 hits. A Nexis byline search for Chelsea Clinton herself over that same time period fetches 20 hits.
Here’s a look at some of the stuff she has done.
She interviewed the Geico gecko, asking the little creature, “Now gecko, do people recognize you on the street?” And, “Is there a downside to all this fame?”
When not helping her employer make nice with corporate America, Chelsea Clinton has done a bunch of “Making a Difference” pieces on, for example: A woman who lifts up children “surrounded by crime and poverty in Pine Bluff, Arkansas” (December 2011); a World War II veteran who “supplies service dogs to wounded soldiers” (January 2012); a “woman who realized horses have the power to heal and bring hope to people who struggle” (July 2012); the Maya Angelou Academy in Laurel (July 2012); a woman who rescues young elephants orphaned by poaching (August 2012); a man who hands out hearing aids to the needy (October 2012); the Foster Grandparent Program (October 2012); Rick Warren (December 2012); folk music traditions in the Ozarks (December 2012); a man who opened a boxing gym in Detroit (March 2013).
A key platform for Clinton’s inspirational stories dried up in June 2013, when the network canceled “Rock Center with Brian Williams.” Even so, she has been on the nightly news every now and again. Her $600,000 deal came up for renewal this year, reports Politico, but the network decided to place her on a month-to-month arrangement in case her mom, Hillary Rodham Clinton, should declare for the 2016 presidential race.
NBC News refers to Clinton as a “special correspondent,” a title best interpreted literally. What unspecial correspondent, after all, gets paid more than a half-mil to do puff stories and travel to Nairobi to check in on elephants?
At the time of Chelsea Clinton’s accession to NBC News, the New York Times cited a “person close” to her as saying this:
The person also said that Ms. Clinton had said she intended to donate most of the money she earned from NBC to the Clinton Foundation and the George Washington University Hospital in the name of her grandmother, who died this month.
When asked if she’d indeed made such contributions, Kamyl Bazbaz, a spokesperson for Chelsea Clinton, responded, “With regards to your question, Chelsea has given generously to causes and organizations she cares about (including The George Washington University Hospital and the Clinton Foundation).”
Whatever she’s done with her paycheck, this whole Chelsea Clinton-NBC News saga is awful. Awful because it’s an affront to hard-working broadcast journalists. Awful because any NBC News reporter or anchor who hustles for an exclusive with Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton has to live with the suspicion that the network’s familial ties to the Clintons facilitated the “get.” Awful because $600,000. Awful because her chief of staff said that the NBC News job was part of Chelsea Clinton’s plan to “serve in the public good.” Awful because the conceit for Chelsea Clinton’s interview with fashion designer Stella McCartney — woman with famous father (Bill Clinton) interviews woman with famous father (Paul McCartney) — was awful: