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The passing of a journalist

On the recent death of NPR/ABC reporter/commentator Cokie Roberts:


I recall, back when we, my now husband and I, were in our early 30’s and even more full of our righteousness than we are now, Cokie Roberts had the cheek to say something we didn’t completely agree with. What was it? I don’t remember, but such a breach, on NPR, our radio beacon of truth and reason, could not stand. So one of us sent a letter (one still sent letters, not anonymous e-mails of outrage, back then), which she answered. With a letter. I recall from that letter not the subject but the graciousness with which she acknowledged our difference of opinion (in retrospect ridiculously slight), and thanked us for our graciousness of critique; “you would not believe the nastiness of some of the letters I receive.” Which probably pleased our mothers (whom I’m sure we told, since good boys tell their mothers such things), and caused us to think she was one classy lady, and to admire her ever since. I vaguely wanted to be Cokie Roberts; a smart, politically connected commentator from a famous family who could cross difficult demarcations in a way that I, a middle-class suburban-raised product of public schools, could not. Or thought I couldn't.

As I matured, she was less central, for I moved further and deeper into a different kind of privileged (or at least partially protected) political progressivism, yet she remained practical, knowledgeable, both in the fray and out. I trusted her, in the way I trusted people older than myself who had seen and experienced things I had or could not, but were cool enough to translate that into something I might understand and be provoked by. She was that threatened creature in our current political wreck: the observant and informed observer who knew the facts but also could understand their context with some understanding of all the players.

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