NYLA Media

Ann Cooper. Lessons from the NPR reporter


„I remember what happened almost minute by minute“, says Ann Cooper, the first NPR’s bureau chief in Moscow. She covered the bloody events of the January 13th, 1991 in Vilnius when the Soviet army tried to occupy the Lithuanian TV tower, killing 14 people.

She first came to Vilnius in 1987 during the very first anti-soviet rally in the union, taking place near the Adam Mickiewicz (Adomas Mickevičius) monument.

With more than 25 years of experience reporting for radio and print, Cooper currently is a professor in Columbia Journalism School in New York, one of the best journalism schools in the world.

At the meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, NYLA’s host Karolis Vyšniauskas interviewed Ann Cooper on her reporting from Lithuania and discussed the state of journalism today. „I see the rise of misinformation“, she says. „Some days I get depressed thinking about how are we gonna hang on to truth?“

Adam Mickiewicz rally was held on the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. It was a peaceful protest with speeches and songs. The Lithuanian national TV, controlled by the Soviet authorities, created a propaganda film about the event portraying the organisers as criminals who don’t have people’s support on their side.

Ann Cooper interviewing protesters at Mickiewicz rally. Talking with an American journalist was seen as treason from the Kremlin’s perspective, but in the late 80s the atmosphere has changed. People stopped being afraid.

The foreign correspondent’s job in Moscow had its limits. „In the late 80s all foreigners had to live in a building which was reserved for foreigners. We assumed that our apartments were all bugged, that they were recording our conversations. There was definitely a surveilance.“

Ann Cooper and Karolis Vyšniauskas in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Journalism Under Fire conference


Podcast episode hosted and edited by Karolis Vyšniauskas, original music composed by Martynas Gailius. Photography by Povilas Obuchovičius, sound editing by Kata Bitowt. The voice over recorded at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

We were able to do this interview thanks to the Edward R. Murrow Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Further Reading:

From Lithuania with Love by Ann Cooper, published at Roads & Kingdoms. The article includes links to Cooper’s NPR reporting from Mickiewicz rally and the January 13th.

This episode is supported by Lithuanian council for culture.


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