Cokie Roberts died at age 75 but leaves an everlasting imprint on the world of journalism. “Cokie’s kindness, generosity, sharp intellect and thoughtful take on the big issues of the day made ABC a better place and all of us better journalists,” remarked James Goldston, president of ABC News, in a statement when her death, due to breast-cancer complications, was announced.
Roberts was an Emmy Award winner and a best-selling author who got her start in what was, back in the 1970s, a male-dominated domain. She and a few other female journalists got their start at an upstart of a news outlet, NPR where she was a contributor till her death.
The Founding Mothers
“[W]e called them the Founding Mothers of NPR, or sometimes we called them the Fallopian Club,” said Mara Liasson, NPR’s national political correspondent. Roberts and her female colleagues set the tone for how women could cover the news, especially the intricacies of Washington politics. Coming from a family of politicians, Roberts felt that her work, communicating about America’s government, was a form of service. In one interview, she said, “I do feel strongly that informing the voters about what’s going on, trying to explain it in ways that people can understand, and putting the issues out there is a form of participation.”
In addition to her role at NPR, she also was chief congressional analyst at ABC for years. Her pull-no-punches breed of reporting won Roberts many awards, most notably three Emmys and the Edward R. Murrow award; she also was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. Though largely impartial, she and her husband (who survives her, after 50-plus years of marriage), wrote an op-ed in 2016 in which they entreated the Republican Party to block the nomination of Donald Trump.
Beyond her on-air achievements, Roberts was the author of six books, mostly recently Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868, which explored the lives of powerful women of the mid-19th century. Cokie’s own curiosity, passion and pursuit of a ground-breaking career show us what a 21st-century woman’s bold life could look like – she set a stellar example.