Who Are the Highest-Paid Sports Journalists?
Bill Simmons, Jason Whitlock, Media Gossip/Musings TheBigLead June 18th. 2008, 2:30pm
It’s a paradox, really; everyone wants to know what their peers are making for a variety of reasons, yet nobody wants to talk about salaries. We thought we’d give it a shot. We did not, however, contact any of the journalists below to confirm/deny their salaries. The estimates you see are just that, and they were culled from articles and talks with nearly a dozen industry insiders. Well-known writers such as Tony Kornheiser and Dan LeBatard no longer write for mainstream media outlets, and thus were omitted from the list. Please direct all angry emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Wilbon, Washington Post, ESPN: Upwards of $2 million per year. The Washingtonian claims Wilbon inked a 4-year, $8 million deal with Disney in Jan. of 2007. With all the belt-tightening at the Post, he’s probably on the books for a low six-figured deal at the paper.
Rick Reilly, ESPN: Left Sports Illustrated and signed a well-publicized “ridonkulous” deal with the Devil ESPN earlier this year, apparently worth $17 million over five years (estimated $3.4 per year).
Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press, radio, books, ESPN: Probably the most difficult to take a gander at, though this article from 2001 gives a good gauge. His estimated salary from the Freep is in the $250k range, but he’s making much more off his radio show and books (that link claims he signed a 2-book deal worth nearly $5 million). And speeches! The guy’s clearing - according to that link - an estimated $30k per speech. His Sports Reporters paychecks are probably cigarette money. A safe guess is $1 million total a year.
Jason Whitlock, KC Star, Fox Sports: Insiders estimate his Star salary to be in the $250k-$350k a year range, and they surmise he’s probably making close to the same at Fox, putting his yearly take in the $550-650k range.
Randy Galloway, Fort Worth Star Telegram, radio: A far bigger deal than you think in Dallas. We’re told he’s making around $300,000 a year from the newspaper (reports of an even higher figure - in 1999! -were not confirmed or denied), and an estimated $300,000 from his popular radio show.
Selena Roberts, Sports Illustrated: Moved from the NY Times to SI last year after - we hear - a minor bidding war between Yahoo, SI, and ESPN. We hear the top female columnist in the country is clearing $600,000 a year.
Mike Lupica, NY Daily News, books, ESPN: Difficult to gauge his yearly bottom line because of his book money. He’s supposed to be the highest paid sports columnist in New York, and his newspaper salary is pegged around $500k a year. There’s no telling how high the book income could boost him, but for the sake of argument, he’s getting 1/2 of what Albom’s getting. All told, a fair guess is $750,000 a year.
Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News, radio: Not a national household name, but he’s got a highly-rated talk show that we hear pays him nearly $400k a year, to go with a columnist gig that nets him something in the low six figures, for a nice half-a-million per year.
Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times, ESPN: A source told us that when Around the Horn started, the participants were getting paid $500 a show. Hmmm. It premiered six years ago. Let’s be conservative and estimate that notoriously cheap ESPN has upped the pay to $750 per episode. And let’s say he does three episodes a week. Four weeks a month. Eleven months a year (vacations, holiday, etc). Conservative total: $99,000. Chicago Magazine estimated his combined salary to be north of $500,000.
Bill Simmons, ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine: This one’s probably better left to the Boston media battalion, but the consensus seems to be that he’s making anywhere between $750k and $1 million, placing him only behind Reilly at the WWL.
Peter King, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports: He’s the most well-known voice at the venerable mag, and now that he’s collecting a hefty check from NBC for less than six months of work a year - heck, if you want to break it down, he works once a week for them, right? - insiders would be surprised if he wasn’t hovering around $1 million a year.
Woody Paige, Denver Post, ESPN: See Mariotti above for his Around the Horn estimates. Don’t have a firm grasp on his Post salary - we’ve heard anywhere from $300k-$600k. Since he’s second only to Elway in terms of popularity in the city, and ESPN reportedly lured him away from his columnist gig several years away for a rumored $750,000 a year, we’ll estimate that right now, he’s bringing home anywhere between $500k-$750k a year.
Other names we may have callously omitted from this list, or names that should be close to it:
Stephen A. Smith, ESPN: Two years ago, he would have been near the top with his Philly Inquirer column, ESPN radio show, and Quite Frankly. But now he’s down to just ESPN the Magazine.
John Feinstein, Washington Post, books: He writes sparingly for the Post, yet probably still commands close to or over six figures. Where he really cleans up are the books, which likely would vault him over a quarter million per year.
Bob Ryan, Boston Globe, local TV show, ESPN: Between the two, he’s clearing over $300,000 a year, but it could stretch as high as $500k.
Ray Ratto, San Francisco Chronicle, CBSSports.com: The newspaper veteran is probably clearing $150k from both places.
Sally Jenkins, Washington Post, books: We’re curious to know if she’s paid better than Wilbon at the Post, since it’s her primary gig (although she lives in NYC, which seems odd), but her books (especially the Lance Armstrong one) are what carry her much, much higher.