Cokie Roberts, Pioneering Journalist, Dead at 75
We're unlikely to see anyone like her again.
Cokie Roberts, a legendary broadcaster for more than four decades, has died from breast cancer.
NPR, where she had her breakthrough, reports:
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts, who joined an upstart NPR in 1978 and left an indelible imprint on the growing network with her coverage of Washington politics before later going to ABC News, has died. She was 75.
Roberts died Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer, according to a family statement.
A bestselling author and Emmy Award winner, Roberts was one of NPR’s most recognizable voices and is considered one of a handful of pioneering female journalists — along with Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer and Susan Stamberg — who helped shape the public broadcaster’s sound and culture at a time when few women held prominent roles in journalism.
Having so many female voices at a national broadcaster was nothing short of revolutionary in the 1970s, NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson recalled in an interview with The Daily Princetonian earlier this year.
“[W]e called them the Founding Mothers of NPR, or sometimes we called them the Fallopian Club,” she said.
Liasson said it wasn’t so much that NPR had a mission for gender equality, but that the network’s pay, which was well below the commercial networks of the day, resulted in “a lot of really great women who were in prominent positions there and who helped other women.”
By the time Roberts joined ABC News in 1988 — while retaining a part-time role as a political commentator at NPR that she maintained until her death — women were increasingly commonplace at broadcast networks and newspapers.
Those of us of a certain age know Roberts from her time at ABC and, especially, her coming in to our living rooms every Sunday morning as a panelist the “This Week” broadcast, first headlined by the legendary David Brinkley and later co-hosted by Roberts and Sam Donaldson.
In her later years, she would be regularly savaged from the left as part of the “High Broder” or “both sides” phenomenon that helped enable the rise of the Tea Party and eventually Donald Trump. But I always thought that criticism unfair. Both her father and mother had been Members of Congress and she brought a nuanced understanding of politics that treated politicians as actual people. And she came up in an era where journalists were supposed to above the fray.
She’s being eulogized on Twitter and elsewhere for her pioneering career, kindly mentorship of young women in the field, and general good grace. We’re unlikely to see anything like her again. The current media environment is too polarized and fragmented for anyone to have such a huge audience, let alone be so widely respected and even beloved.