Napoli illuminates the terrifying, thrilling energy of NPR as start-up ... The book is a lesson in how the fringe project of one generation becomes the mainstream of the next ... Refreshingly, she also reminds us that some of the debates that have roiled the media in recent years — such as the fear that clickbait will engulf serious journalism — are not new, though the culprit used to be network television, not BuzzFeed ... Napoli clearly admires her subjects, and they come across as trailblazers, but they remain somewhat one-dimensional in the book, never reaching the intimacy of first-name basis that the title promises. We learn the most about Totenberg and Roberts, including an illuminating look at the Democratic political dynasty in which Roberts grew up ... But over all, Napoli takes a 'nevertheless, she persisted' approach with the women, largely skimming over their doubts and contradictions in favor of tidy, triumphant narrative arcs ... Throughout the book, I found myself wishing for the gritty details that would make the 'founding mothers' less perfect role models, but more interesting characters.
[Napoli] brings all her biographical and expository skills, along with her passion for reporting and fluency in the social, political, and financial challenges facing the press, to this vivid and engrossing group biography of the women who built National Public Radio ... Napoli revels in the powerful personalities and talents of the founding mothers as she chronicles how each confronted misogyny, juggled personal lives and demanding careers, and established enormously influential cultural, legal, and political beats. Along the way, Napoli tells the instructive story of NPR’s growth, from a shoestring operation to an inspired but nearly bankrupt juggernaut to today’s avidly supported media jewel. NPR fans will find every detail compelling, while readers interested in media will discover a new and essential facet of broadcast history.
... fascinating, highly readable ... this book is much more than the group biography its title proclaims it to be ... Readers are left with inspiring insights into the pathbreaking work of these four women, but more importantly with a sense of how the status of some women and the role of the media have both changed in the last 50 years ... Readers interested in feminism, women’s history, and biography will be rewarded with a great story that deserves to be widely known.