American journalist Cokie Roberts passed away this week at the age of 75. I didn’t know much about her personally, but her name and voice were a staple of my childhood. Reading and listening to several pieces on her life, her work, and her ethos made for something worth sharing. Cokie was a true professional.
“Do the work, be fair, be kind, and lift each other up.” – Rachel Martin on how we can all honor Cokie Roberts’ memory
The Work: Cokie worked on TV and radio, as a journalist and an author, as a listener and a leader. The quality of her output was top-notch across every medium she put her attention to.
Be Fair: As a woman in media, primarily covering politics, she was often the lone woman in many settings. She didn’t demand fair, she commanded it. When applying for jobs they told her women’s voices lacked authority, that men couldn’t work for female writers and all sorts of reasons that sound absurd today (and this was less than fifty years ago). She helped pave the road and bring others down it. If you wanted to do the work and proved yourself capable, you deserved a fair shot.
Be Kind: Nina Totenberg said, “To know Cokie was to see the personification of human decency. There is a reason she was asked to speak at so many funerals. People felt such a deep connection to her because she touched their lives. Casual friends would find Cokie visiting them in the hospital. People in terrible financial straits would find her bailing them out, hiring them for work that perhaps she did not need, but work that left them with their dignity.” There are a ton of stories like this – people felt seen and heard by her.
Lift Each Other Up: The outpouring of love by peers and other professionals remembering how she encouraged and supported them is inspiring. She grew up in a political family where the family was a team. There’s a story about her sister answering a reporter’s call in the middle of the night so her father could sleep, and at 12-years-old knowing enough to tell the reporter he couldn’t use her as a source because she was a minor. They had each other’s backs. She brought that tribal camaraderie with her to work too – NPR still refers to her as a “founding mother.” Cokie knew to take care of others and get things done.
There’s a value proposition that extends beyond our jobs within her words. Good messages, like good stories and good journalism, spreads.