Newsman Dan Schorr died last week at the age of 93. He had worked up until two weeks before his death, for the past 25 years as a news analyst and commentator for NPR.
Schorr said public radio hired him because he was a living history book.
“A colleague stuck his head into my office [one day] and said to me, ‘Dan, excuse me, you covered the Spanish-American war, no?’” Schorr told All Things Considered host Robert Siegel in a 2006 interview. “He saw the look on my face. He said, ‘No, I guess not. That was earlier, huh?’”
But Schorr was there for World War II, the Korean War, the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the first space flight, Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon, and the building of the Berlin wall and its fall 28 years later.
He on occasion got in trouble with his bosses. CBS suspended him in 1976 – he later resigned before the network could fire him – and CNN fired him 1985.
But Schorr collected a bushel of honors for his work, including three Emmies, the George Polk Award for radio commentary, and the Edward R. Murrow Award for lifetime achievement in broadcasting. That one came in 2002.
He also collected a perverse kind of honor from the Nixon Administration. White House aides didn’t like Schorr’s reporting on the Nixon Administration and dispatched the FBI to dig up something they could use against him. Investigators didn’t get much, nonetheless the aides put Schorr on a Nixon Enemies List. That list came to light on September 9, 1971, when John Dean mentioned it during a hearing being conducted by the Senate Watergate Committee.
Schorr got the list minutes before air time that evening, for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Schorr read the list live on the program and didn’t miss a beat when he came to his name as number 17 and the note “a real media enemy.” Until that moment, he didn’t know he was on the list.
I remember it well. I was watching CBS that evening. A lesser reporter might have stumbled or gasped at the sight of his name on an enemies list. Not Schorr. He read his name and went right on, holding his reaction until after he was off the air.
Schorr was a writer, of his own news stories and commentaries, and of books – six books in his lifetime: Don’t Get Sick in America
(1970), Clearing The Air
(1978), Forgive Us Our Press Passes, Selected Works
(1998), Staying Tuned: A Life in Journalism
(2001), The Senate Watergate Report (2005), and Come to Think of It: Notes on the Turn of the Millennium
Working with other writers, he also co-wrote three other books: Within Our Reach: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage
with Lisbeth Schorr and William Wilson (1989), Cradle & Crucible: History and Faith in the Middle East
with David Fromkin, Zahi Hawass, and Milton Viorst (2004), and The Idea of a Free Press: The Enlightenment and Its Unruly Legacy
with David Copeland (2006).Tomorrow: The future of the book, part last