Longtime journalist Daniel Schorr dies at age 93

Daniel Schorr, a reporter and commentator who over 60 years grew from a feisty young gun to a well-respected and often-skeptical elder statesman of television and radio, died yesterday at a Washington hospital.
He was 93 and until early this month was still offering regular commentaries on NPR. His last commentary on "Weekend Edition" aired July 10.

He was an impassioned defender of free speech even when he abhorred its content. He once publicly denounced his boss Ted Turner's call for a ban on violent movies, and he became unlikely friends with fellow First Amendment activist Frank Zappa.

Schorr was also a frequent critic of what is now often called "the mainstream media," resigning from CBS in 1976 because he felt the network was too timid when he came under fire for leaking the contents of a Congressional report on illegal FBI and CIA activities.

Schorr's achievements over 60 years included three Emmys for news reporting, 1972-1974, and a spot on the late President Richard Nixon's "enemies list."

Those honors stemmed from the same material. Schorr was known in the early 1970s for his hard-hitting coverage of the Nixon White House.

When the "enemies list" was released, Schorr read it on the air and professed surprise to find himself at No. 17. 

Three years after he left CBS, he became Turner's first hire at the fledgling CNN. He stayed until CNN did not renew his contract in 1985 and then moved to NPR, where he spent the rest of his career as a regular commentator on several programs – notably "Weekend Edition" with Scott Simon.

In his final commentary, Schorr still flashed the wry, bemused style that became his latter-day trademark.

Discussing the heightened camaraderie between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their last meeting, Schorr said they were "condemned to be friends" because of their countries' strategic interests.

"Nobody else in broadcast journalism – or perhaps any field – had as much experience and wisdom," Simon said yesterday. "He was playful, funny and kind. In a business that's known for burning out people, Dan Schorr shined for nearly a century."

Born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrant parents, Schorr broke into the news business at the age of 12. He saw an injured woman on the sidewalk near his home in the Bronx and after summoning help phoned in a tip to the Bronx Home News. He later recalled that he was paid $5.

He joined CBS as one of the last new members of the legendary Edward R. Murrow's news team. He opened CBS's Moscow bureau in 1955, but was not allowed to return to Russia after he scored an exclusive interview with Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khruschev and complained about Soviet censorship.

He subsequently clashed with American Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon as well, and was accused of self-serving behavior by CBS in the leak of the CIA/FBI report.

None of this led him to soften his approach or his views. After the Supreme Court ruled against continuing the Florida Presidential election vote in 2000, Schorr called it "a judicial coup . . . . led by a Gang of Five."

In a 2003 interview, he reflected on his NPR r position and called it "a satisfying home for the evening of my career. I no longer pursue scoops, but concentrate on the context and the meaning of things. I interact with journalists a third to half my age who seem to regard me as a walking history book.

"If asked, I tell them what lessons I have learned over the past 60-odd years. And since there are today more pressures than ever to conform, to avoid rocking the boat, I'm prone to advise: At least once in your lifetime take a risk for a principle you believe in, even if it brings you up against your bosses."

Schorr is survived by his wife Lisbeth, a son and a daughter. (www.ndailynews.com)


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