With all this extra time at the beach and having mostly run out of things to do that actually appeal to me, I’ve had a lot of reading time. I bought three books on Amazon a few days after we got here, and have already finished two of them.
The minute I heard that Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR, by Lisa Napoli was out, I ordered it. I have listened to National Public Radio for many years, even when my kids were young, because they would listen to stories and stop the chatter briefly (love those kids, but they had a lot to say…perhaps that’s from being related to me?). I knew they’d had some troubles at some point, but I started listening long after that. What I did know was that I loved listening to all the varied voices I heard, especially Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg, and Cokie Roberts.
What a fascinating story of how women came to be “allowed” to be public-facing voices in the news media! And what interesting people these four are/were! My favorite has always been Nina, because I love hearing her describe what goes on in the Supreme Court. It’s like a soap opera. I knew her father was a famous musician, but it was great to learn his story along with hers. And Cokie Roberts, now there’s someone I probably would have hated in college, to my detriment, since she was actually incredibly talented, versatile, and smart. Susan broke the ice for everyone else, and her story of courage and tenacity is most inspirational. It’s similar with Linda, who was so focused on her goals that she just made them come through.
The stories about the history of NPR are just as captivating as the stories of the founding mothers’ lives. A real parade of quirky, visionary, and sometimes not-so-helpful leaders showed up and left. The dude who just let them go bankfupt because NO ONE was watching the money, Frank Mankiewicz, was the villain in the book, and he never shut up after his big screw-up. What impressed me the most was how most of them remained fiercely devoted to NPR even after they left or were shown the door. Public radio is very popular with its fans!
Napoli does a really fine job of weaving fun anecdotes and insider stories about all of the characters in this group biography, and it makes you feel like you know these inquisitive, tough, chain-smoking news geniuses yourself. I appreciate that Napoli doesn’t make these women into saints, but shows how ruthless and cut-throat they could be at times. Their devotion to the news and the truth is fierce and strong, as apparently is their ability to love, since they all seemed to have great spouses to cheer them on.
Yep, this book impressed me and brought me a lot of joy. It easily took my mind off of what is going on in the world around me, but let me pretend I was paying attention to the news; it was just news in the 70s and 80s.
2 thoughts on “Book Report: Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie”
Fascinating! You may also enjoy Terry Gross’s interview on Fresh Air with Susan Stamburg and Bill Siemering who co-anchored All Things Considered from 1972 to 1986. The show aired on April 28, 2021, honoring NPR’s 50th Anniversary. He talked about the resistance to listening to a woman talk about news since they were used to white male voices. I’ve listened to the interview twice – so far. Love it.
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I’ll listen. Bill is all over the book, too.