Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

NPR
NPR Public Editor

Remembering Cokie Roberts

761616008_2109395798.jpg

Cokie Roberts appears at the National Press Foundation's 26th annual awards dinner on February 10, 2009 in Washington, DC.
Brendan Hoffman/Stringer, Getty Images

Cokie Roberts appears at the National Press Foundation's 26th annual awards dinner on February 10, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Listeners have reacted with sadness to the news that Cokie Roberts, an NPR "founding mother," died this morning of complications from breast cancer.

As one listener wrote to our office, "she had a plumb, level and straight presence that promised that we would get through this hail and lightning storm."

I mostly knew Roberts through my work covering the radio and television world as a newspaper reporter, before I joined NPR (where my role occasionally called upon me to address listener questions about her commentary). Before I met her in real life, however, I knew her as a pioneering woman, one of several in visible roles at NPR. In retrospect, it's because of women like her that I never really doubted when I was an aspiring journalist that there would be a place for me in what was then a male-dominated profession.

As Mara Liaisson told Here & Now today, there was a not-so-pretty reason so many women ended up at NPR in the early days: NPR "paid so poorly back then, and a lot of times when male reporters got to a certain age or got married, had kids, they would leave for a higher-paying job at a television network." (NPR pays competitive salaries today.)

Support comes from

But Roberts, and others — including Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and others — did the work and succeeded, and brought along other women in their wake. Among the many tributes to Roberts pouring forth today, I've noted a thread of just how many women feel they owe their careers in some way to Roberts. Here are just a few reactions from women in the NPR newsroom:

Official tributes from NPR include remembrances from Nina Totenberg and Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.