Cokie Roberts, the pioneering broadcast journalist known to millions for her work with ABC News and National Public Radio, died on Tuesday. She was 75.
ABC News, in a posting on its website Tuesday morning, said the cause was breast cancer, which was first diagnosed in 2002.
Ms. Roberts started her radio career at CBS, then in 1978 began working for NPR covering Capitol Hill. She joined ABC in 1988. Her three decades at the network included anchoring, with Sam Donaldson, the news program “This Week” from 1996 to 2002.
“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,” James Goldston, president of ABC News, said in a statement.
Ms. Roberts was both reporter and commentator during her career and was widely respected both by her fellow journalists and by those she covered. Representative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, recalled on Twitter a 2001 talk in which she “encouraged all of us, Republicans and Democrats, to always seek consensus where we could.”
“I’ll never forget how moving she was,” he added.
Danielle Kurtzleben, an NPR reporter, praised Ms. Roberts as an example for younger generations of journalists.
“I’m proud as hell — proud as hell — to work at a news organization that has ‘Founding Mothers’ whom we all look up to,” she said on Twitter. “God bless Cokie Roberts.”
Michelle and Barack Obama, in a statement, called Ms. Roberts “a trailblazing figure; a role model to young women at a time when the profession was still dominated by men; a constant over forty years of a shifting media landscape and changing world, informing voters about the issues of our time and mentoring young journalists every step of the way.”
If Ms. Roberts brought deep knowledge and keen insight to her work, that was in part because she was a child of politicians and first walked the halls of Congress as a young girl. Her father was Hale Boggs, a longtime Democratic representative from Louisiana who in the early 1970s was House majority leader. After he died in a plane crash in 1972, his wife and Ms. Roberts’s mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to fill his seat. She served until 1991 and later became United States ambassador to the Holy See.
It was a background that gave Ms. Roberts a deep respect for the institutions of government that she covered. She didn’t hold herself or her journalism colleagues blameless for the problems of government.
“We are quick to criticize and slow to praise,” she said in a commencement address at Boston College in 1994.
“But,” she told the crowd, “it’s also your fault.” Constituents, she said, needed to allow members of Congress to make the tough votes and “let that person live to fight another day.”
In an oral history recorded for the House of Representatives in 2007 and 2008, she expanded on the impact of her childhood experiences in shaping her admiration for America’s institutions.
“Because I spent time in the Capitol and particularly in the House of Representatives, I became deeply committed to the American system,” she said. “And as close up and as personally as I saw it and saw all of the flaws, I understood all of the glories of it.”
“Here we are, so different from each other, with no common history or religion or ethnicity or even language these days, and what brings us together is the Constitution and the institutions that it created,” she added. “And the first among those is Congress. The very word means coming together. And the fact that messily and humorously and all of that, it happens — it doesn’t happen all the time, and it doesn’t always happen well, but it happens — is a miracle.”
Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs was born on Dec. 27, 1943, in New Orleans. She said that her brother, Tommy, invented her nickname because he couldn’t say “Corinne.”
She, her brother and her sister, Barbara, were immersed in political life, accompanying her father on campaign trips, attending ceremonial functions, and witnessing the discussions when other political leaders would come to dinner.
“Our parents did not have the children go away when the grown-ups came,” Ms. Roberts said. “In retrospect, I’ve sometimes wondered, ‘What did those people think to have all these children around all the time?’ But we were around, and it was great for us.”
Ms. Roberts attended Catholic schools in New Orleans and Bethesda, Md. In 1964, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in political science, and in 1966 she married Steven V. Roberts, then a correspondent for The New York Times. Journalism was a largely male world at the time, something driven home to her when she went job hunting.
“In 1966 I left an on-air anchor television job in Washington, D.C., to get married,” she told The Times in 2014. “My husband was at The New York Times. For eight months I job-hunted at various New York magazines and television stations, and wherever I went I was asked how many words I could type.”
She eventually became a radio correspondent for CBS, then in 1978 joined NPR. With Nina Totenberg and Linda Wertheimer, she began to change the journalistic landscape.
“As a troika they have succeeded in revolutionizing political reporting,” The Times wrote in 2014. “Twenty years ago Washington journalism was pretty much a male game, like football and foreign policy. But along came demure Linda, delicately crashing onto the presidential campaign press bus; then entered bulldozer Nina, with major scoops on Douglas Ginsberg and Anita Hill; and in came tart-tongued Cokie with her savvy Congressional reporting. A new kind of female punditry was born.”
A full obituary will follow shortly.
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