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Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR by [Lisa Napoli]

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Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR Kindle Edition

4.4 4.4 out of 5 stars 1,141 ratings

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From the Publisher

"Offers a powerful lesson on what can happen when we carry as we climb." from The Washington Post

"Offers a riveting insight into the early days of the newsroom." quote from NPR

What a great gift this book is for all of us." quote from Judy Woodruff, PBS' News Hour

"How the fringe project of one generation becomes the mainstream of the next." —NYT Book Review

Editorial Reviews


“Napoli narrates the origin stories of NPR’s female journalistic superheroes … a history filled with so many powerful moments and fascinating details about journalism, perseverance, and gender bias.”―Kirkus Reviews

"[Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie] illuminates the terrifying, thrilling energy of NPR as start-up....The book is a lesson in how the fringe project of one generation becomes the mainstream of the next....Napoli portrays the network’s endearingly experimental, chaotic beginning."

The New York Times Book Review

"Lisa Napoli's
Susan, Linda, Nina Cokie is an intimate and beautifully told tale of the extraordinary coming together of four women who would help shape a network, the news business, and each other's lives. I feel immensely grateful to these women for all they have done for NPR and for women in journalism and also incredibly proud to work alongside them."―Stacey Vanek Smith

"NPR gave a voice to women in news before many other news outlets, and NPR's founding mothers used their powerful voices to tell the stories that explained and changed people's lives. Lisa Napoli impressively chronicles how these four pioneers paved the way for women journalists everywhere."―
Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girls Revolt

“Histories, biographies, and behind-the-scenes narratives about the news biz typically idolize swaggering, chain-smoking, tough-talking dudes who tower over testimonies with testosterone-infused personalities. But with
Susan, Linda, Nina Cokie, Napoli honors not the dog-eat-dog variety of journalist, but the fortitude of sisterhood, of women supporting each other.”

Oprah Daily

"Readers are left with inspiring insights into the pathbreaking work of these four women, but more importantly with a sense of how the status of some women and the role of the media have both changed in the last 50 years."―
Library Journal

“Napoli chronicles not just the camaraderie of Stamberg, Wertheimer, Totenberg and Roberts, but their commitment to help the careers of younger women who aspired to follow them. The founding mothers, in word and deed, offer a powerful lesson on what can happen when we carry as we climb.”―
The Washington Post

“Public radio fans will treasure this book.”―
Brian Stelter

“Napoli has written an eye-opening, often funny, sometimes horrifying story that includes madcap escapades, thrilling scoops, and misogynistic misadventures.”―

“Lisa Napoli’s can’t-miss account of four female journalistic titans who banded together in the nonprofit radio organization’s early days.”

Harper's Bazaar --This text refers to the paperback edition.

About the Author

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Lisa Napoli has had a long career in print, radio, TV, and online journalism. She has worked at the New York Times, Marketplace, MSNBC, and KCRW. She is the author of three previous books, Radio Shangri-La, Ray & Joan, and Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN, and the Birth of 24-Hour News. She lives in Los Angeles. --This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08K424MH2
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Abrams Press (April 13, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ April 13, 2021
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 3393 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 4.4 out of 5 stars 1,141 ratings

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Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lisa Napoli moved to southern California in 2004 to work on the public radio show, Marketplace. She's the author of 4 books, including: "Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie," about the "founding mothers" of NPR; "Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN, and the Birth of 24 Hours News"; "Ray & Joan," about the McDonald's heiress Joan Kroc; and "Radio Shangri-la", about helping to start a radio station in Bhutan, the "happiest place on earth," at the dawn of democratic rule.

(author photo by Preston Wiles)

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
1,141 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 9, 2021
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ironically, the "famous" heroines of National Public Radio - aren't household names.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 9, 2021
* "Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie" opens dramatically - re-visiting that shocking Sunday in August 2019 - when TV journalist Cokie Roberts appeared gravely ill during an interview on ABC's "This Week." She later tells fans that her cancer had returned and not to worry. But in a few weeks - the most "famous" - (although not the first) - of the "Founding Mothers" of National Public Radio (NPR) - would be gone at age 75.

* Author Lisa Napoli has mastered the art of "grabbing you by the lapels" - with her defining prologues and riveting re-enactments - which have a cinematic way of pushing things in your face - before backing into a long-form history of what's ahead. More than ten years ago - she wrote a memoir about starting a radio station in remote Bhutan. I took notes and forgot about 'em later. But in 2016 and 2020, Napoli re-emerged with two history books bursting with reverence and humor, i.e., "Ray & Joan" - (about Ray and Joan Kroc and the birth of McDonald's) - and - "Up All Night" - (about Ted Turner and the birth of CNN) - written in a breezy style that melts clocks. (Think Bill Bryson and Mary Roach, authors who make history fun to read.)

* With her latest, Napoli spotlights NPR's Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg and Cokie Roberts. If you're not an NPR "regular" - the only name that "might" jump out at you is Cokie Roberts. Napoli acknowledges this, e.g., she expertly describes a scene from March 2020 - when a mob of rubber-neckers - strain for a glimpse of the latest celebrity to be permanently enshrined with a "star" on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. It was Susan Stamberg. Who? Napoli reckons there were murmurs of disappointment among those expecting a Kardashian-type in their midst.

* "Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie" has three objectives. 1) To present mini-bios of four exceptional women; 2) to summarize how NPR began and its relationship to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, e.g., how adding the phrase, "...and sex" - joined race and religion as being protected by federal law, and, 3) to give credit to all women - before and after NPR - who struggled in workplaces fraught with misogyny and mischief.

* She describes NPR's "Fallopian Jungle" in elaborate detail - a national news platform where women were hired because they were cheaper than men. She notes how and why rampant pay inequities - and gross sexism - would continue for decades - issues which still ring familiar - but were many times worse for journalism's female pioneers. Ironically, it was a man - Bill Siemering - who built NPR's "deep-dive" news format - banishing fast-tempo deliveries common in an industry dominated by commercial newsrooms flush with cash.

* The book also opens a dark window on how close NPR came to being wiped out by financial negligence during the 1980s - and chronicles how it recovered. Props to Napoli for not shying away from NPR's relationship with its audience of "educated and well-to-do listeners" - which would feed perceptions of liberal bias - but would also prove critical in ensuring its long-term survival.

* By unreservedly casting her leads as heroines - Napoli's book has a different "feel" than her raucous histories of Ted Turner at CNN and Ray Kroc at McDonald's. (Not as R-rated hence a tad less engaging for me personally.)

* But history well told is still good history. Even though NPR's "Founding Mothers" aren't household names - America's most famous and influential figures were acutely aware of their power, deferring, patronizing or sucking up to them. Even activist Stokely Carmichael got into it (pg. 126) - describing Cokie Roberts as a "white, racist, imperialist, stuck-up b---." They broke ground and stories their way - which could explain why until now - they've been overlooked in journalism schools. (BTW, women still make up nearly sixty percent of NPR's staff today.)

* The book feels short despite its nearly 300 pages - but all Lisa Napoli books seem that way to me because of how they're written. "Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie" is another fine work from the Napoli canon - and based on articles I've read elsewhere - it seems to be her biggest critical and commercial success thus far. Grade: A-.
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