Steven Brill reveals his payday!

The mighty Brill turns the bright light of salary introspection on -- his Slate moiety.

Published April 30, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Last week in this space Salon Media reported that, when Steven Brill's namesake magazine, Brill's Content, ran a special feature disclosing the often-closely-guarded salaries of media professionals great and small, it declined to make any mention of the income of its employees or, notably, of Brill, the highly successful publisher and Court TV entrepreneur. In so doing, we implied, though we did not directly state, that Brill was inordinately reticent about revealing his own financials as he would have his compeers do.

Recent events indicate that Salon Media has greatly misjudged Brill's character, and we regret our error.

In a Slate "Breakfast Table" dialogue with Time columnist and TV talking head Margaret Carlson posted Wednesday, Brill dropped a bombshell. For his efforts discussing the week's news headlines in a witty, spontaneous e-mail exchange with Ms. Carlson, he revealed, "I have now discovered that Microsoft [Slate's publisher] was prepared to pay me $800 for this gig." (An earlier Slate editor's note indicated, "We never got around to telling Steve Brill that he would get paid for his participation in the Breakfast Table, just as everyone else who has written for the section has been paid ... Brill does not accept payment from publications he might cover in Brill's Content.")

Salon Media, whose editor does freelance work for other organizations, disclosing it where relevant -- although we will consider reevaluating the practice once we launch our first cable-television network -- salutes Brill for being so forthcoming. While he still does not reveal, we assume for very good reasons, his earnings overall, one can safely extrapolate that -- since he was comfortable in returning Slate's proffered fee -- they must reasonably be greater than or equal to approximately $52X, where X equals the remuneration Slate was willing to extend him for a week's labor. We can therefore safely assume, and we believe that we are the first to report this, that Steven Brill's income reaches into four figures and quite possibly (although we're on shakier ground extending the surmise on the available evidence, given that Slate's 8 C-notes could have been seen as sufficient to buy the man's loyalties) into five figures. But at least quite comfortably into four figures, in any event, we'll wager.

We further salute Brill for extending the following offer to Carlson: "Can you or any of our readers pick a charity to which we can have the check mailed? Why don't we let readers make suggestions, and you pick the best one" -- apparently, and again generously, offering the noted columnist and television personage the opportunity to sort through and act on the e-mail that he had just himself solicited. Perhaps Brill feels he simply doesn't have a great enough understanding of the world's ills properly to direct the funds, but we say he's too modest. Any suggestions, feel free to pass 'em along.

By James Poniewozik

James Poniewozik is a Time magazine columnist on TV and media.

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