Lisa Napoli interviews National Public Radio (NPR) “founding mothers” Susan Stamberg and Linda Wertheimer for Live Talk LA in the chatty, over-the-backyard-fence style that characterizes NPR. Napoli mines the 50-year history of the network, from its initial funding in 1971 to its resilience throughout the decades as the news media evolved and changed. She asks Stamberg and Wertheimer – pioneering women broadcasters – to look back and to peer into the future of “human voices telling stories.”
National Public Radio (NPR) began in 1971 with 12 stations along the East Coast.
The Public Broadcasting Act funded NPR to produce “intelligent radio,” although no one understood what that meant. It took the form of “educational radio” and focused on public interest stories.
In the early days, everybody at NPR did every job. Broadcasters worked with the Christian Science Monitor, whose foreign correspondents offered international news. Robert Siegel joined the team as the foreign correspondent.
In the 1980s, NPR went through some hard times. The network reconsidered its balance between hard news and feature stories, especially in light of disappearing local newspapers and the rise of opinion TV. Congressional supporters and listeners kept NPR on the air. As newspapers died and commuting traffic worsened, radio boomed. NPR added smaller outlets that made it a nationally known news source.
NPR grew successfully due to the pioneering work of its “founding mothers.”
Susan Stamberg was the first woman anchor ...
Lisa Napoli is a journalist and the author of Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR and Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN and the Birth of 24-Hour News. Susan Stamberg is a special correspondent and a “founding mother” at National Public Radio, as is Linda Wertheimer, a senior national correspondent.