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NPR's new digs derided as costly 'News Palace'

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 6:36 p.m.

NPR's gleaming new headquarters in the shadow of the Capitol in Washington has soaring ceilings, a 24-hour “wellness” center, an employee gym and a gourmet cafe staffed by a resident chef. This could be a political problem.

NPR showed off the 400,000-square-foot complex to members of the media this week. It immediately began drawing some grumbles from those who see the edifice as far too luxe for a nonprofit radio and digital-news organization that depends, in part, on taxpayer support.

The rumblings began when the Drudge Report linked to a rather innocuous account of the news-media tour. Soon, the blogosphere was percolating with denunciations of the building's cost and alleged excesses.

“They build a ‘News Palace' and they still need taxpayer dollars?!?” tweeted Jim Farley, vice president of news for WTOP, the all-news radio station in Washington.

A blogger known as the Lonely Conservative sniped, “Who wouldn't be jealous of working in such a lavish space, especially when one's tax dollars help to fund” it?

And Michael Savage, the conservative radio host, asked, “How much money did that cost to build?”

Answer: $201 million, or a bit more than NPR's annual operating budget of $174.7 million in fiscal 2013.

NPR officials point out the new headquarters wasn't financed with tax dollars, at least not directly. The organization raised funds through a combination of tax-free bonds, individual donations and the proceeds from the sale of its old building.

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