Longtime NPR Reporter Margot Adler Made Listening A Delight

Jul 29, 2014
Originally published on July 29, 2014 1:05 pm

Margot Adler joined NPR in 1979. She was known for a personality as dynamic as the city she covered: New York. She died Monday at age 68 of cancer.

Even when the city was in upheaval, she found the people and the details that made listening a delight. She once said she was most drawn to stories of everyday people.

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This morning, we're all very sad to report a death in our NPR family. Margot Adler, one of this network's signature voices, died yesterday of cancer.


Margot joined NPR in 1979, and she had a personality as dynamic as the city she loved and covered - New York.

WERTHEIMER: Whether she waded into a riot in progress or looked for people to bear witness to a small part of a big event, Margot got people to talk and made us listen. Here's a taste of her reporting.


MARGOT ADLER: Now you might wonder, since this is Occupy Wall Street, how do they deal with money? Michael Fix is with the finance working group. It was chaotic at first, he says. They were deluged with funds and responsibilities.

MICHAEL FIX: 501(c)3, getting a bank account...


ADLER: There were two totally different Manhattans in the wake of Sandy's fury, and I spent a lot of my time in what I've come to call the border area - those blocks where there was power, activity and normalcy on one side and on the other, no lights and just the noise of the few generators pumping power into darkened delis and pizza joints.


ADLER: In the post-September 11 world at this crossroads of Christopher and West streets where a gay man with HIV can work with firefighters, and black teens can cheer police and wave American flags, it's a different landscape. And some New Yorkers are feeling their American citizenship in a very new way.

WERTHEIMER: That sound from Margot Adler's reporting on the Occupy Wall Street movement then super storm Sandy and finally 9/11.

MONTAGNE: Margot covered a parade of New York mayors and politicians. Still as a guest on NPR's Talk Of The Nation, she said she was drawn to stories of everyday people.


ADLER: I have found that the issues of who's in the government not very interesting compared to, you know, real characters, people who live their lives here, lessons that are learned. I think we've learned more from characters and people and stories than we have from officials. My goal is kind of to be a kind of anthropological journalist.

WERTHEIMER: One of the characters she introduced us to was the Naked Cowboy of Times Square.


ADLER: Almost anytime you go to Times Square, you will see the Naked Cowboy in a white cowboy hat, white boots, white underwear briefs with the words Naked Cowboy written across his butt. That's all he's wearing.

ROBERT BURCK: I was born naked 42 years ago.

ADLER: Robert Burck is the original naked cowboy.

BURCK: I was on Venice Beach playing guitar in a full cowboy outfit, and I was ignored the entire day on the boardwalk. Then a photographer said why don't you play in your underwear - came back in my underwear the next day and made, like, $100, had people taking my pictures. A news crew just happened to be walking down the beach. They filmed me because I was rocking the crowd with the same piss-poor, no-good music that I had since day one.

ADLER: Burck traveled all over, got arrested 16 times, he said. And someone said go east to New York.

BURCK: Everybody ready?

ADLER: Naked Cowboy, Robert Burck, and the company of six other cowboys and cowgirls officiates at the wedding of Greg Hardy and Victor Flores. And despite the naked torsos and underwear, there were tears and moving moments.

GREG HARDY: In your eyes, I found my home. In your heart, I found my love. In your soul, I've found my mate.

ADLER: There's a mix of something only slightly risqué and so innocent here. And there's a freedom and exuberance they express. They may be in their underwear, but among Times Square's massive surging humanity, there's something about them that is simply sweet. Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.

MONTAGNE: Margot was 68-years-old when she died yesterday at her childhood home in Manhattan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.