Cokie Roberts and Sander Vanocur represented different eras of Washington TV journalism.
Roberts died Tuesday in Washington at age 75 and Vanocur Monday night in California at 91.
Vanocur, best known for reporting on the Kennedy administration for NBC News, personified the male-dominated news business of the 1960s. Roberts was among a generation of women journalists who demolished those gender barriers in the 1970s and 1980s.
Roberts, like Vanocur, was a Washington insider. Her father, Hale Boggs, for years represented New Orleans in the U.S. House and was House speaker when he died in a plane crash in Alaska. Her mother, Lindy Boggs, took her husband's place after his death and served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Roberts grew up breathing politics, giving her an empathy for politicians unusual for a journalist.
A glamorous correspondent in the days when TV overcame newspapers as Americans' dominant news source, Vanocur was a prominent persona during John F. Kennedy's ground-breaking administration. He was the last of a four-member panel of reporters who questioned Kennedy and Richard Nixon in their 1960 debate, which changed the course of news and politics.
Reporting on Kennedy's witty and sophisticated news conferences and his trips and speeches. Vanocur with his haughty air and polished sentences was the TV counterpart of the "Best and Brightest" who served in Kennedy's cabinet. One of my most vivid childhood memories is watching a choked-up Vanocur report on Kennedy's assassination. He was one of the last journalists who interviewed Robert F. Kennedy.
A solid, insightful reporter, Roberts excelled as one of the first of a new era of TV pundits, giving insider commentary about Washington. During her career, opinion grew as prevalent as objective news reporting.
Sophisticated and knowledgeable, she presented a folksy yet informed personality. Her gossipy, gently humorous commentaries brought comfort as partisan politics grew more hostile.
Starting out at NPR before a superstar career at ABC, Roberts was also a noted author of books detailing women's contributions to American history. While at ABC, she continued to do commentaries for NPR, and wrote a newspaper column.
Vanocur thrived when the three TV networks dominated the airwaves. Roberts rose to prominence during the last years of that dominance. She witnessed the rise of cable news and the Internet and the decline of network news.
They spanned a time when Americans' trust in the news and government receded. Roberts flourished as a believable voice as Americans' political unity frayed. Now, the country is fractured into political tribes believing their own realities.