Cokie Roberts, considered a pioneer for female journalists and one of the most recognized political correspondents of the century, passed away from complications due to breast cancer on September 17, 2019. In her wake, she leaves behind a legacy of authorship and activism spanning over half a century.
She was born into a political family in 1943. Her parents both served as members of the Democratic House of Representatives for Louisiana, and both of her siblings were also involved in politics. Cokie never ran for office, but she felt that her choice of a career in journalism and political analysis was her way to contribute and make a difference. She did this by presenting political issues in a way that was accessible for the common voter.
In 1966, Cokie married New York Times journalist Steven V. Roberts. They lived abroad for a few years, at which time Cokie worked for CBS as a freelance correspondent. When they returned in 1977, she began working for NPR, which was at the time a hole-in-the-wall media organization that presented current news and culture pieces. During this era, women did not have prominent roles in most news organizations. As NPR was not government-funded, it relied on donations and did not have the ability to support higher salaries. For this reason, NPR’s workforce was primarily women. These women were the ones who helped to make NPR the respected entity that it is today.
In 1988, Cokie accepted the opportunity to join ABC News, but continued to serve in a part-time capacity with NPR as a political commentator, a role she filled until her passing. She was also part of the news segments World News Tonight and Nightline, among others.
Cokie Roberts was recognized by the organization American Women in Radio and Television as one of the 50 greatest women in broadcasting history. Her broadcasting career spanned over 50 years, and she authored several books. Many young women in journalism have looked to her as a role model in building their own careers, citing her as a pioneer in the field.
Following Cokie’s passing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former President Barack Obama, and former First Lady Michelle Obama all offered statements in praise of Cokie’s contributions. Pelosi said it well when she stated, “Cokie Roberts was a trailblazer who forever transformed the role of women in the newsroom and in our history books.”