July 25th, 2010
My Dear America:
Daniel Schorr is dead and the news business has lost another legendary Newsman.
I don't exactly recall the circumstances of when I first saw Daniel Schorr presenting a story on CBS News with Walter Cronkite as he did for so many years. I do remember thinking, however, how in the world is this guy on a network newscast when he sounded like he had a speech impediment. He did not really have a speech impediment, of course. Its just that his laid back speech sound and his rather plain ordinary face did not match up with the booming authoritative voices and the pretty boy good looks of many other Television newscasters at the time.
Why was Dan Schorr on television with CBS? The answer was because he was one hell of a newsman and had been one at CBS since first getting picked by Edward R. Murrow to become one of his select few correspondents at CBS News.
CBS Newsman, Robert Schieffer, himself a standout in the field of Television Newsmen, gave Howard Kurtz of CNN and the Washington Post some of his memories of his colleague, Daniel Schorr, this morning. Schieffer recalled a time when Schorr was using a cane due to a leg injury or an operation or something and when attending a press opportunity on Capitol Hill used the cane as a weapon to clear a path for himself to get to the front of the press pack limping badly as he hurtled himself forward. Schieffer also recalled that Schorr, who was quite proud of his status as being close to the top of Richard Nixon's famed "Enemies List", found out that he was on the list on live television when having come up with the list he was reading the list and reporting on camera when he found his own name close to the top of the the notorious list. According to Schieffer he thought Dan Schorr would probably want his inclusion on the "Nixon Enemies List" to be on his gravestone.
There was a good reason that Daniel Schorr was on the "Nixon Enemies List". Schorr was a probing and fearless White House Reporter who was constantly trying to find the leaks in the Nixon Administration's Ship of State and when he found them he was not satisfied just to report them. He constantly wanted to find more out about the dark dealings of the Nixon Administration and did so consistently. Although Daniel Schorr did not break many of the stories on Watergate that eventually sunk the Nixon Administration, he and CBS News were for a long period of time the only national Television News Organization that reported those stories to the National Television Audience. In the research I did for my book on Watergate, "Letters To A Lost Nation: A Watergate Chronicle" I list only Daniel Schorr and Walter Cronkite of CBS and Carl Stern of NBC as the only Network Reporters who regularly contributed Watergate stories to Network news prior to the Senate Watergate Hearings.
Schiedffer and Kurtz also talked about the fact that Daniel Schorr not only stood up to politicians like Nixon in the White House but also to his bosses at CBS News, as well. He left CBS News due to a heated dispute about reports he did on the CIA that CBS refused to air. He moved on to CNN where he only agreed to take a job as Correspondent if Ted Turner and company promised him complete autonomy and independence and freedom from interference.
Schorr eventually had problems with the CNN brass also and left CNN ending up on NPR Radio for the last 25, or so, years of his life. When he died this week he was 93 years old and had given his last NPR News Analysis only a couple of weeks before his passing.
Dan died with his family beside him and it is hoped that the integrity that he showed throughout his career will somehow be emulated by others in later years in what will be left of the News Business.
He was clearly one of the last surviving members of a dying breed of Courageous and Legendary Reporters and I will personally miss his compelling News Analysis Reports on NPR.
He was an example in so many ways of what a Reporter should and could be in America and he will be missed terribly by NPR News Junkies like me.