Broadcast journalism lost one of its founding fathers on Friday: Daniel Schorr, protege of Edward R. Murrow and veteran political journalist, died on July 23 at the age of 93. A spokesperson for NPR, for which he worked, said that Schorr died after a short illness, surrounded by family. Schorr worked for CBS and CNN as well as NPR, and wrote several books including an autobiography, “Staying Tuned: A Life in Journalism.”
“Daniel Schorr had a long and storied career covering many of the biggest and most important events of our time,” said CBS News and Sports prexy Sean McManus. “We extend our condolences to his family.”
Former NPR prexy Kevin Klose, with whom Schorr worked closely, described him as “a classic, quality journalist. He did so much, as a single human being, to help create and then fulfill standards of quality reporting in broadcasts — all across an amazing lifetime.” Klose said that Schorr fell ill 10 days ago.
With George Polk and Walter Cronkite, Schorr was a member of the second generation of “Murrow’s Boys” — promising young journalists recruited by Murrow to report for CBS News in the years after WWII. In 1953, he opened CBS’s Moscow bureau, interviewing Nikita Krushchev in his office at the Kremlin in 1957. In trouble with the KGB for wilfully breaking oppressive Soviet censorship laws, Schorr left the U.S.S.R. at the end of that year and was barred from returning to the country.
He won three Emmy awards for his coverage of the Watergate scandal, along with an even more auspicious recognition: a place on president Richard Nixon’s notorious “enemies list.” According the Klose, Schorr was so proud of making the list that his friends made him a shirt that said “#18” — Schorr’s “rank” on the list.
Schorr’s relationship with CBS was cut short in 1975 when, fearing that CBS would not help him to publicize information in a damning House Intelligence Committee report, he leaked the report himself to the Village Voice. Schorr then kept quiet when a CBS exec became convinced that co-worker Lesley Stahl (who was engaged to Voice scribe Aaron Latham) had leaked the report.
Schorr later apologized, though he was asked to resign from CBS after the end of the hearings on the matter, in which Schorr was ordered to divulge his sources to the House of Representatives. He refused. Schorr’s book “Clearing the Air” gives his own perspective on fallout from the report.
After a brief period teaching at UC Berkeley, Schorr returned to television, this time at the newly-formed CNN, where he worked from 1979 to 1985. Schorr left the cabler after a disagreement with honcho Ted Turner over a program Turner wanted Schorr to host opposite former TX Gov. John Connally. Schorr, feeling that Connally was a subject of the news and not a reporter, said no and left the net when his contract expired.
His next, longest, and last post was at NPR, where he worked as a commentator until his death on Friday. When, in 2002, he received the Edward R. Murrow award for lifetime achievement, Klose says the 86-year-old Schorr turned to him and said. “You’ve given me a lifetime achievement award. Thank you very much, but my lifetime isn’t over yet.”