Marilyn Geewax, senior business editor for NPR and NF ’95, remembers her colleague Margot Adler.
NPR’s Margot Adler, NF ’82: Building Community with Kindness
Margot Adler, 68, died Monday after a long struggle with cancer. She spent her last morning in her childhood home, facing Central Park, with her son, 23-year-old Alex Gliedman-Adler, and a long-time friend.
Margot had been an NPR reporter in New York since 1979. She was a beloved figure at the network.
Over the years, lots of NPR journalists have been Nieman Fellows. But our Founding Mother was Margot. She was a Nieman in 1982 – a time when the great majority of fellows were drawn from newspapers or television, not radio. And of course at the time, relatively few female reporters were working at the top levels of national news outlets.
Last September, Margot returned to campus for the Nieman’s 75th Anniversary reunion. That weekend, she sent a message to the other NPR fellows:
“I am having coffee at Darwin’s at 1629 Cambridge St, coffee is spectacular. Let’s meet at nine tomorrow – Margot”
That’s all the invitation we needed. A jolly group gathered at the small restaurant to get to know each other over eggs and coffee. Before that day, I had spoken to Margot on the phone, but had never met her. Within minutes, she felt like an old friend.
So many fun things happened that weekend, but really…what has stuck in my memory more than anything else was that breakfast. Margot’s kindness created an instant community built of pulled together chairs and small tables. She was at the heart of it, sharing memories of the past and thoughts on the future. What a lovely person.
- Learn more about Adler’s life and legacy at NPR.
- Margot Adler recently released “Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side,” a meditation on society’s fascination with vampires, about which she wrote in Heart of Darkness, from the Spring 2014 issue of Nieman Reports.
NPR’s Howard Berkes, NF ’98:
Margot was generous with advice and encouragement. Show up as a stranger at the NPR New York Bureau on deadline and Margot would help get you on the air. When I sought a Nieman Fellowship, Margot helped with advice, strategy and endless encouragement. Behind the scenes, she was an AFTRA activist and Shop Steward, always sticking up for the most vulnerable among us. She asked the toughest questions about how our workplace did and didn’t work. On the air, she injected fun and wonder in her stories long before that became an NPR goal. She probed corners of the American social landscape no one else would touch. And she absolutely loved capturing the passion, compassion, curiosity and emotion of the human voice.
It’s hard to imagine our air and our lives without Margot, a friend and colleague for 30 years.
Gerald B. Jordan, NF ’82
Margot had one of the most distinctive voices on National Public Radio. In person, she was even more dynamic because of her infectious laughter and magnetic personality. Margot was a force to be reckoned with when she saw injustice. And she wouldn’t back down.
My most enduring memory though is Margot’s beautiful singing voice. I can’t remember what we were doing one day when I heard her break into a song. I guess that I was taken aback because I expected her range to be in the clear contralto of NPR Margot. She had a beautiful voice and from time to time we’d launch into a few Motown tunes, evoking the era in which we both reached dating age.
Margot was my classmate, my dear friend, my occasional tutor, my sounding board and my invitation to open my mind. I miss her much.
With fondest memories,
NPR’s Midwest Bureau Chief Ken Barcus is collecting donations for a memorial bench in Margot’s name in Central Park, close to her home in New York City. Margot herself bought a bench in the park for her husband John, when he passed away, and one for her mother years earlier.
Those wishing to contribute may do so online or send a check made out to Margot Adler Memorial Fund and mail to:
3109 Mayfield Rd. #207
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118