NPR increases rates for freelancers

January 1, 2012

Dear AIRsters, supporters, and friends,
We’re pleased to share with you some good news to start out the New Year. NPR’s Margaret Low Smith, Interim VP of News, announced today a 7.5% increase across the board in standard rates paid to outside freelance and station-based contributors, effective today, January 1, 2012.  Her announcement to NPR staff and stations is below, and you’ll find the new rates here. (Ed. note: NPR’s pitch guidelines and rates were updated in 2016.)

This increase, the first since AIR worked with NPR to devise a new rate structure in 2002, comes with additional news of a revised, 3-tier compensation structure – including standardized rates for tape syncs – and plans to launch in 2012 a first-ever on-line resource portal for outside contributors at  In addition to information about rates, we’ve proposed it include resources such as a contact list of NPR editors, sample pitches, policies and guidelines. We believe this resource will serve to reinforce AIR and NPR’s mutual commitment to clarity, transparency, and to cultivating a broad and diverse pool of public media talent.

These positive developments come after nearly a year of discussions between AIR and NPR, and extensive consultation by NPR with its bureau chiefs and editors. We understand there is broad support from within the ranks at NPR, and on behalf of AIR’s board and members, we extend our thanks to all those who advocated for the increase. Thanks, in particular, to Margaret Low Smith for sticking with it in spite of an unusually challenging year at NPR.

In particular, please join us in thanking AIR’s Karen Michel and Jeff Lunden, who rolled up their shirtsleeves (once again!) working on this throughout; to NPR’s liaison to AIR, Stacey Foxwell for her patience and persistence, and to NPR’s Western Bureau Chief Jason DeRose and AIR’s Special Liaison to Members Deborah Begel for helping lay groundwork for the on-line resource portal. Thanks, too, to AIRster/NPR Liaison to Freelancers Paul Ingles, and special props to our own steady and true Membership Director, Erin Mishkin.

This decision to increase rates, which comes at a time of fiscal austerity, reflects NPR’s commitment to the strong, diverse network of independent and station-based reporters so vital to the programming produced by NPR and local stations each day.

Over the long term, we are confident these new steps will only serve to strengthen public media journalism, and the important service we, together, provide to citizens across America and the world.

Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2012,

Sue Schardt, Executive Director
David Freedman, President




TO:   NPR A-Reps

NPR Bureau Chiefs
NPR contributing reporters

From: Margaret Low Smith, Interim SVP of NPR News

Date:  January 1, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Year! I’m delighted to give you some good news to start 2012. Effective immediately, NPR is instituting an increase of at least 7.5% in most fees paid to station-based and independent radio contributors.  We’ve also simplified the existing compensation structure as you’ll see in the attached document. Rates for Digital and Multimedia work will not be affected by this increase since those rates were set more recently.

We’ve heard a lot of feedback on this issue from our Member Station contributors and have had many conversations with Sue Schardt on behalf of the Association for Independents in Radio. NPR’s decision to increase rates, which comes at a time of tight budgets, is intended to reflect our commitment to the vital network of station-based and independent reporters whose contributions enhance our programming every day.

With that same spirit, we’re developing a dedicated resource space on Freelancers will be able to find contacts, sample pitches, policies and guidelines all in one place. We hope this will provide clarity and transparency and ultimately make everyone’s life a whole lot easier. We’ll let you know when it’s ready for prime time.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to our bureau chiefs and editors.  We hope you had a wonderful holiday and look forward to working with you in 2012.