BY STEVE VOLK PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE STAFF WRITER Marty Moss-Coane hadn’t planned on saying anything, but the longer she listened, the more it seemed that a particularly significant issue just wasn’t being raised. The occasion was a company-wide meeting in the summer of 2006 to discuss morale at WHYY, and the longtime host of the popular call-in show Radio Times felt she had some idea what was making her co-workers angry. So she finally stood up, both literally and figuratively the heft of her role at the station allowing her to say something to CEO Bill Marrazzo that maybe no one else could.
“Bill,” she said, “one of the reasons morale here is so low is that your salary is so large compared to everyone else’s.”
It must have been a troubling moment for Bill Marrazzo, the $430,786 man. That’s his salary — or at least, it was the last time the figure was divulged in the company’s annual tax return. With his refined style of dressing, spiky hairdo and warm handshake, he comes off as something of a dandy. And in Moss-Coane, he was facing a woman who questions people for a living. But Bill Marrazzo also isn’t the kind of man to back down.
“I work very hard for my salary,” he responded.
“So do a lot of people here,” Moss-Coane fired back.
The brief exchange elicited what the radio host remembers as an “uncomfortable silence” from the crowd of employees. And the meeting moved on.
Today, more than 50 years into WHYY’s existence, Marty Moss-Coane isn’t the only one with questions for the boss. Most Philadelphians react to WHYY with a yawn — and with good reason. Beyond the station’s acknowledged radio stars — Moss-Coane and nationally syndicated Fresh Air host Terry Gross – this city’s public broadcasting company doesn’t give us much reason to tune in, particularly on television. Unlike top-flight PBS stations, it produces no regular national TV programming and hardly any local programming of note. And yet according to the watchdog group Charity Navigator, Bill Marrazzo is the highest paid CEO in all of public broadcasting.
It’s this last fact that tends to rile onlookers. In September, an anonymous group of WHYY employees sent an open letter to Marrazzo, the Inquirer, the Daily News and this magazine, accusing him of “a serious lack of understanding when it comes to creating … a healthy workplace” and assailing his salary as “excessive and inappropriate.” The five-page letter concludes with a call for Marrazzo to resign. More troubling, in August, Inquirer columnist Karen Heller called for a boycott of WHYY, declaring that its CEO is paid too much for delivering too little. MORE