Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Friday, July 23, 2010

Daniel Schorr Dies At 93

Once upon a time when CBS had raw courage, before it knelt down on its knees and genuflected before large corporations,  the station gathered some of the most brilliant, ethical and talented journalists on its payroll. People like Edward R. Murrow, William Shirer - until Murrow had him sacked - Howard K. Smith, Marvin Kalb, Walter Kronkite. And then there was Daniel Schorr.

He never shed his New York accent but he always spoke in a soft voice - a voice that belied his toughness, his quest for truth and his fierce belief in Freedom of the Press. He had a profound knowledge of how "government institutions and players operate, as well as the perspective gained from decades of watching history upfront." (Alan Greenblatt, NPR)

Schorr began writing for the Christian Science Monitor as a foreign correspondent in 1946 and later for The New York Times.

Schorr joined CBS News in 1953 as one of "Murrow's boys," the celebrated news team put together by Edward R. Murrow. He reopened the network's Moscow bureau, which had been shuttered by Joseph Stalin in 1947. Ten years later, Schorr scored an exclusive broadcast interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the U.S.S.R. Communist Party chief — the first-ever with a Soviet leader. Schorr was barred from the U.S.S.R. later that year after repeatedly defying Soviet censors.
. . . snip . . .

He was reassigned to Washington in 1966. Other reporters in the bureau were already covering major institutions such as Congress or the State Department, so Schorr assigned himself to cover the implementation of President Johnson's Great Society programs.
"No one had such a beat," recalled his bureau colleague Roger Mudd. "He was everywhere. He had almost carte blanche to cover Washington."
Unlike the bland, spineless and superficial reporters of today, Schorr counted his inclusion on Richard Nixon's Enemies List as one of his greatist achievements. "The list — naming hundreds of political opponents, entertainers and publications considered hostile to the administration — became the basis for one of the charges of impeachment against Nixon."

Watergate Press Table

In 1975, Schorr reported on assassinations that had been carried out by the CIA. "The anger of the administration can be gauged from Richard Helms' denunciation of Schorr," historian Garry Wills recounts in his 2010 book, Bomb Power.

Helms, then the CIA director, confronted Schorr in the presence of other reporters at the White House, calling him names such as "son of a bitch" and "killer."

"Killer Schorr: That's what they ought to call you," Helms said.
In 1976, Schorr reported on the findings of the Pike Commission, which had investigated illegal CIA and FBI activities. Acting counter to the committee's vote to keep the final report secret, Schorr leaked it to the Village Voice.

Schorr was threatened with a $100,000 fine and jail time for contempt of Congress. But during congressional testimony, Schorr refused to identify his source, citing First Amendment protections. The House ethics committee voted 6 to 5 against a contempt citation.

But CBS had already taken Schorr off the air. He ultimately resigned from the network that year.

"CBS found that, like other big corporations, it did not like to offend the Congress," Mudd said. "He broke his ties to CBS and before they could fire him, he resigned."

CBS's account is slightly different:
At the time, Schorr called it "an inescapable decision of journalistic conscience" to see that the report ended up in print. To his surprise, reaction from his own colleagues in the media was negative, because Schorr had handed the report over in exchange for a donation to a group that aids journalists in First Amendment issues.

Many reporters also found Schorr's silence troubling when another CBS correspondent, Lesley Stahl, was wrongly accused of leaking the report.

Schorr was suspended by the network and the House opened an investigation, though it later dropped the case. He resigned from CBS soon after.
In 1979, Schorr was hired to provide commentary for the fledgling CNN. The network inaugurated its programming the following year with his interview with President Jimmy Carter. But in 1985, his contract was not renewed, which Schorr counted as his second "firing."

Schorr joined NPR where he had already been doing occasional commentaries. He became a senior news analyst and continued writing a column for the Christian Science Monitor, which he had been doing for years.

Senate Historian Donald A. Ritchie said "Schorr was part of that breed of commentators who dug up information before they pontificated about it."
"It really is true that I would sometimes stand up for principle at the risk of my job," he told his son Jonathan for an interview on NPR's Weekend Edition last year. "It is also true that when I lose my job I get terribly nervous."


  1. What a Man he was. A real journalist. I so remember him along with Cronkite as being the ones you could depend on for the truth. The truth something that's sadly missing today. Thanks for Posting this.


  2. Tim - when I was in HS I dreamed of becoming a war correspondent, a dream that was never fulfilled because I'm a chicken at heart and lack ambition. As the years passed I decided it was just as well because I never could have lived up to a Daniel Schorr.

  3. Thanks for the post AND the memories.

    I miss the greats such as those you mentioned. They never colored the news, it was factual and to the point, left for us to form our own opinion of thee story.

    I remember when they would "editorialize", they would state so before they started offering their opinion.

    Now, they simply bullshit us the same way our politicians do. They’ve all learned well from the elitist puppet masters.

  4. Boomer: I think mainly, they're just lazy and uninquisitive.

  5. Good Evening Ms.Leslie!

    Interesting read .... I recall his face from somewhere's, but I didnt the name. Alot of those thing's I didnt even know about till year's after only because back during alot of that stuff I didnt pay attention to the tele, or politic's or a damn thing frankly. Like I said ... I even tried to enlist during Viet Nam and ended up in jail instead, something I would have never tried to do knowing what I do today, nor did I even read paper's back then frankly, so this was all new news to me, I did remember of Walter Cronkite though, but them other's I dont think I heard of either I reckon. Sound's like a Hell of Guy though! Thank You ....

  6. Must be a generational thing or memory, but I had no idea about hos 1970s background. I knew him as one of the great voices of NPR.

  7. RC: I think anyone who tried to sign up for Nam should have been in jail. ;-)

    dmarks; He was a top notch reporter. I'm sure he had his flaws just like Murrow and the rest of them but he usually managed to hit a home run.

  8. There seems to be a confusion these days about what is news. Is what Bill O'Rielly says news? Is what Rush, or Hannity, or Beck say, news? Of course not, it is opinion of reported stories, in many cases not confirmed, and not even true. Yet many Americans seem to be accepting all this hot air as unbiased, factual news. That's one big problem with debating and trying to come to some solutions to our problems, no one is debating facts, they are debating opinions.
    If we ever have another Saturday Night Massacre, would the talking heads help America find out what actually happened, or would they spin it to meet their political slant?
    Good fact seeking reporting has been replaced by the hot air of self serving egotists.
    I don't like to sound like a soggy, old, idealist, but I miss the news as it was reported by people like Mr. Schorr and his generation.

  9. Nearly every piece of news we get today is some opinion piece or other. When I read my local rag, I note that even in local "news" reporting stories, there is a bit of opinion tossed in, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. With a few exceptions, true reporting is dead.

  10. Tom: Since I'm not running a popularity contest, and in the interest of being as fair as possible, we have people on the left who are just as guilty. With the exception of being more factual - most of the time - the left has its collection of drama kings and queens. Good fact checking reporting has gone down the tubes all across the board - Maddox perhaps being the one notable exception. I'm totally with you on missing the good old days of solid reporting, but today it's the ratings and advertising dollars that count.

    Bee: This is true and far be it from a reporter to check his facts.

  11. For sure Dem's are as at much fault thus, FOX vs MSNBC. Chris Mathews is just as much opinion as anyone on the right.
    I agree, Rachel Maddow seems to have the best research and facts, at least she gives that information before she gives her opinion, which she does forcefully.
    The American people make the mistake of thinking this is all news and true facts.
    Give me a simple reading of the facts.

  12. I'm kind of a fact based person as well - as long as it's stacked on the left. : )