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Totenberg to Add NBC News Duties

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nina Totenberg, the National Public Radio reporter who broke the story of Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, is joining NBC News as a legal-affairs commentator and analyst. But she will continue working for NPR.

When she begins appearing on NBC next Monday, Totenberg will be the third NPR reporter to join one of the major TV networks this summer. John Hockenberry left the non-commercial radio operation for ABC, and Scott Simon took a leave to become a co-host of NBC’s weekend “Today” shows.

Totenberg said in a telephone interview from her office at National Public Radio that she expects to analyze legal news and issues for the network on its various news programs, including “NBC Nightly News,” “Today” and “Meet the Press.”

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The reason she and other NPR reporters are branching out, Totenberg said, besides professional advancement, is money. NPR, whose reporters make between $30,000 and $80,000 per year, cannot compete with the networks, which can pay two to three times as much.

“You reach middle age and you can’t be a charitable enterprise forever,” said Totenberg, who said that she is the primary breadwinner in her family while her husband, former Sen. Floyd K. Haskell (D-Colo.), works on a novel. “You have to make plans for your future, and the networks offer it.”

For now, Totenberg will be able to juggle both news organizations, providing reported pieces and analysis for NPR while also appearing on NBC. She will give up her current part-time job appearing on PBS’ “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” but may occasionally appear on ABC’s “Nightline,” because NBC does not have a competing program at that time.

On NBC, she will be identified as a reporter for both NBC and NPR.

And while she will remain at NPR, her foray into network news appears to mirror the path of other reporters, who left gradually, but eventually switched almost completely to jobs in TV.

For example, ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts started in television with occasional appearances on various network news programs, much like Totenberg. Then, also like her colleague, she signed a contract with ABC that provided for regular TV appearances while allowing her to remain at NPR.

Eventually, Roberts switched almost entirely, so that today her staff job is with ABC, and her occasional appearances are on NPR.


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