Remembering Daniel Schorr
Contentious, abrasive, thorough, skeptical, dogged, courageous, trustworthy. High praise, indeed.
All of those words are job requirements and descriptions for what today is an endangered species in the field of journalism: the investigative reporter.
All of those words pretty much fit Daniel Schorr, one of the last of the great television and radio reporters who passed away at the age of 93 last week.
Today’s luminaries in the news may have more memorable faces, more dramatic delivery, and they’re certainly better looking, but they can’t hold a candle to the likes of Schorr, who managed to tick off just about every president, elected official and government official he came in contact with, including Nikita Khrushchev, Eisenhower, JFK, CIA directors, senate committee chairs and, most fondly and importantly to him, President Richard Nixon.
Schorr, who died while still working for National Public Radio, came from the Edward R. Murrow informal school of journalism, full of tough, in-your-face, questioning reporters and anchors. That school included Walter Cronkite, once the anchor for the nation on CBS, a network for which Schorr worked until becoming embroiled in intelligence committee findings he discovered, reported and then leaked IN TOTO during the presidency of Gerald R. Ford.
Schorr was discovered by Murrow and became a member of his team, though in his own idiosyncratic way. He was a CBS reporter in Moscow until a KGB reporter refused to let him return. He managed to anger both Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson, but most of all he made Nixon, who didn’t like the media to begin with, turn green and paranoid.
Schorr managed to win Emmy for his Watergate reporting on CBS, for “outstanding achievement within a regularly scheduled program.”
His reporting landed Schorr on Nixon’s infamous “enemies” list a large and eclectic rundown of political foes which also included the likes of Broadway star Carol Channing and New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath. Schorr, like many members of the list, was inordinately proud of his presence there.
In the 1970s, a House Committee investigating the intelligence community, especially the CIA, decided to dub its finding secret. Schorr leaked the findings to the Village Voice after CBS refused to run the story. He was subsequently fired, leading to questions about his integrity, a reporter’s most valuable asset. Schorr, in the end, was vindicated, and you can find an echo of the incident in the recent leaking of classified information about the Afghan war by a watchdog Web site.
Schorr’s passing, like that of Cronkite, is a reminder of the huge changes in the media. They’ve never been replaced.