By the 1990s, NPR had recovered financially and was firmly within the circle of the most authoritative providers of news in America. The decade would see the TV networks shift their energies from daily news coverage to prime-time magazine features and celebrity interviews. Taking their place was the Cable News Network, able and willing to cover breaking news anywhere in the world at any time of day. C-SPAN now covered the political news conferences and congressional hearings once available only on NPR. United Press International was in critical condition, no longer a worthy wire-service competitor of the Associated Press. Fine old family-owned newspapers were gobbled up by the chains, making the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal more vital than ever. As for radio journalism, NPR stood alone, offering two-hour newsmagazines morning and evening seven days a week, opening bureaus in the United States and overseas while expanding newscasts to a twenty-four-hour-a-day schedule, and starting a midday program, Talk of the Nation.
It’s a good thing we were ready for the nineties because the decade’s events were exciting. I don’t know one fellow baby boomer who expected to outlive the Cold War. Back in the eighties when Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement challenged the Polish government (and by extension, the Soviet Union), we feared they might be crushed as effectively as those involved in the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the