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The Founding Mothers of NPR

The Foundng Mothers of NPR

A Conversation with Author Lisa Napoli and NEPM’s Maya Shwayder
Presented by the Springfield Public Forum
Wednesday, May 19 at 7 p.m.

In the years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women in the workplace still found themselves relegated to secretarial positions or locked out of jobs entirely. This was especially true in the news business, a backwater of male chauvinism where a woman might be lucky to get a foothold on the “women’s pages.”

But when a pioneering nonprofit called National Public Radio came along in the 1970s, and the door to serious journalism opened a crack, four remarkable women — Susan Stamberg, Linda Wertheimer, Nina Totenberg, and Cokie Roberts — came along and blew it off the hinges.

These trailblazing “founding mothers” paved the way for a new generation of top-notch women journalists who serve at NPR today — Ailsa Chang, Audie Cornish, Mary Louise Kelly, Noel King, Rachel Martin, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, and others.

Published in April, 2021, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR is journalist Lisa Napoli’s captivating account of these four women, their deep and enduring friendships, and the trail they blazed to becoming icons.

Join the Springfield Forum for an online discussion with author Lisa Napoli and Maya Shwayder, co-host of NEPM’s And Another Thing.  

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Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lisa Napoli is a graduate of Hampshire College. In her three decades as a journalist, she’s worked for the New York Times, MSNBC, public radio’s Marketplace, and other outlets. Her first book, Radio Shangri-La, is about the impact of media culture on the mysterious Kingdom of Bhutan, where she was invited to help start a radio station at the dawn of democratic rule.

She currently lives in southern California, where she leads an award-winning volunteer cooking group at the Downtown Women’s Center on Skid Row in Los Angeles.  She’s also the founding board chair of the Bhutan Media Society, an all-volunteer news outlet created by Bhutanese refugees in diaspora.

Maya Shwayder is co-host of And Another Thing, NEPM’s new, interactive public affairs radio program which can be heard live Mondays – Thursdays at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5.  Maya grew up outside Detroit and attended Harvard College and Columbia Journalism School. She spent four years in New York City as a local reporter writing for a variety of outlets, eventually becoming the UN Correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, before moving abroad to pursue a TV career.

Maya spent over 4 years based in Berlin, traveling around Europe and the US, as an international correspondent and anchor for Deutsche Welle/DW News, Germany’s international broadcaster. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic,the Daily Beast, and others.


Susan Stamberg has been on the staff of NPR since 1971. In 1972, she became co-host of All Things Considered, making her the first woman to anchor a national nightly news program. She continued in that role for 14 years, then hosted Weekend Edition Sunday, and now reports on cultural issues for Morning Edition and Weekend Edition Saturday.
Linda Wertheimer joined NPR at the network's inception and served as the first director of All Things Considered, starting with its debut on May 3, 1971. In 1976, she became the first woman to anchor network coverage of a presidential nomination convention and election night and the first person to broadcast live from inside the United States Senate chamber with 1978 coverage of the Senate Panama Canal Treaty debates. As senior national correspondent, Linda now travels the country and the globe, bringing her wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. She joined NPR in 1975. In 1991, her ground-breaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill's charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage — anchored by Totenberg — of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Anita Hill's allegations, and for Totenberg's and exclusive interview with Hill.

Cokie Roberts began working for National Public Radio in 1978, where she was the congressional correspondent for more than ten years. Roberts was also a contributor to PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Her coverage of the Iran-Contra Affair for that program won her the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting. Cokie went to work for ABC News in 1988 but maintained her ties to NPR with the popular Morning Edition “Ask Cokie” segment. Cokie Roberts passed away on September 17, 2019.

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Carey Larsen is a member of the Marketing, Events and Communications team. She is primarily responsible for creating and managing emails sent to members of the NEPM community. For WGBY, she was the development coordinator, pledge producer, volunteer coordinator and email marketing manager. Prior to that, she was the general manager of the Pioneer Valley Symphony. Carey is a professional musician. She serves as soprano soloist at the First Church of Christ in Longmeadow.