Daniel Schorr: An appreciation

Daniel Schorr, a journalist whose fierce independence landed him on President Nixon’s enemies list and whose award-winning 62-year career spanned newspapers, radio and television, died Friday.

By , Washington Bureau Chief

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    Daniel Schorr appears before the House Ethics Committee September 15, 1976.
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Daniel Schorr, a journalist whose fierce independence landed him on President Nixon’s enemies list and whose award-winning 62-year career spanned newspapers, radio and television, died Friday.

Mr. Schorr, who began his career in 1948 as a stringer in the Netherlands for The Christian Science Monitor and in 1953 became part of Edward R. Murrow’s famed team of CBS News foreign correspondents, never stopped working. His last on-air appearance, at age 93, was on NPR’s Weekend Edition July 10 when he joined host Scott Simon to review the week’s news.

“In a business that’s known for burning out people, Dan Schorr shined for nearly a century,” Mr. Simon said in a statement. Schorr began working for NPR in the late 1970s and became a senior news analyst for the organization in 1985.

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While at NPR, he continued writing for the Monitor. From 1986 to 2007, Schorr wrote 750 opinion columns for the paper. In March 2009, as the Monitor was moving from daily print to an online-first format, Schorr penned his last Monitor piece – a remembrance of being hired by the paper’s legendary foreign editor, Charles Gratke. “He was a great editor of a great newspaper,” Schorr wrote.

Schorr was notable for staying a reporter and commentator his entire career – he never stepped into the revolving door between politics and the press. However in the late 1970s he did accept a brief appointment as Regents Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley while writing a syndicated newspaper column, according to his NPR biography.

Schorr became the story twice in his career. His reports for CBS News about the Nixon administration’s failings enraged the president. And thus during the Watergate hearings in 1973, Schorr found himself on television one night to reveal Nixon’s enemies list. Reading the list on the air for the first time, Schorr was surprised to find his own name at number 17. “I remember that my first thought was that I must go on reading without any pause, or gasp,” Schorr wrote in his 1977 book “clearing the Air.” He won three Emmys for his Watergate coverage.

He was also at the center of developments while covering CIA and FBI scandals for CBS. In February 1976 the House of Representatives voted to suppress the final report of its intelligence investigating committee. Schorr arranged for the publication of an advance copy he had obtained in exchange for a donation to a journalism group. As a result, he was suspended by CBS and investigated by the House Ethics Committee.

Threatened with a contempt citation if he did not reveal his source, Schorr said, “to betray a source would mean to dry up many future sources for many future reporters…. It would mean betraying myself, my career, and my life.”

After writing for the Monitor and The New York Times, he was hired by Mr. Murrow. After starting as a Washington-based diplomatic correspondent, he was assigned to open a CBS bureau in Moscow and later landed the first exclusive TV interview with Soviet Leader Nikata Khrushchev. Later assigned to Germany, he covered the Berlin crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall.

After leaving CBS, in 1979 Schorr was asked by Ted Turner to help create Cable News Network. He served as CNN’s senior Washington correspondent until 1985.

In addition to the Emmy’s he won for his Watergate coverage, in 1996 Schorr received the Alfred I. DuPont Columbia University Golden Baton for “Exceptional Contributions to Radio and Television Reporting and Commentary.” He also was honored with a George Foster Peabody personal award for a “lifetime of uncompromising reporting of the highest integrity.”

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