Login

Farewell to a diva of journalism

When I heard about the passing of Cokie Roberts, a long-time political reporter, a correspondent for CBS and a congressional correspondent for NPR, I felt I had lost a family member. It was like losing an older sister or an aunt who for decades, with her solacing voice, assured me and all her listeners that although political events in the United States and around the world at times can go haywire, at the end, her sharp-edged yet tender reporting and graceful style brought clarification to the events. 

Each time it was announced that Cokie had a report to deliver, I rolled up the windows and raised the volume of my car’s radio to indulge myself with her ever-investigative review of current events, delivered with pure professionalism and without any hint of sensationalism.  

Perhaps it was simply the charm and the melodiousness of her voice, her cheerfulness that blended with her knowledge of the law, her meticulous analysis of the stories that she reported like family stories, told in a living room or coffee shop. Her voice will remain in my mind like a melody to be repeated over and over again. 

As per Wikipedia, where detailed biographical information is provided, Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs was born on Dec. 27, 1943, in New Orleans. This is already a fascinating story: she had received the nickname “Cokie” from her brother Tommy, who, as a child, could not pronounce her given name, Corinne. It amazes me when family folklore shapes someone’s future personality and career. 

And what a career she had. Born into a family of politicians, Cokie, even as a little girl, was immersed in the workings of political life. From the early days of her career, she felt perfectly at home with congressmen, senators, foreign leaders and everyday common people, decoding and elucidating their at times contradictory opinions with her amicable and caring delivery. 

What makes her legacy most notable is that Cokie, according to NPR, along with pioneering female journalists Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer and Susan Stamberg, helped shape an entirely revolutionary method of raising the integrity and the candor of journalism to its highest levels.

Besides her incredible achievement in reporting, she was also a bestselling author, mostly exploring the important role women have played throughout American history.

During her interview with the late Gwen Ifill for the “NewsHour” in 2015, Cokie Roberts explained why writing about women was important to her.

“One of the reasons I have been writing books about women in history is because other people haven’t been. And telling history without talking about one-half of the human race seems to me to be an inaccurate way of telling the story.”

In a transcript of an interview, with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air,” Cokie describes how journalism was monopolized by men who considered female reporters simply second class citizens who had neither the temperament nor the competence to become successful in their own right. That was when men owned the media. Cokie Roberts turned the tables upside down, becoming one of the founding mothers of NPR, bringing integrity, professionalism and honesty to the profession.

And that’s something so much needed in our current society. In this age of social media, most of the time it’s hard to distinguish between what is the truth or what is fake. Where many times, in order to attract readership, journalists tend to incorporate occasional sensationalism and over dramatization of events they report to gain broader notoriety and following.

What a legacy and inspiration Cokie leaves behind to young women who will pursue a career in journalism. She will remain a role model, crystallized with her abundant charm, honesty and integrity.

Bon Voyage, Cokie. Rest In Peace.

 

Varoujan Froundjian is a graphic designer, Photoshop artist, writer, cartoonist, information technology and wine expert who also drives a limousine for local livery. He can be reached at varoujanfroundjian@gmail.com.