The soul of American journalists, Daniel Schorr, passed away at 93 today in Washington DC. A protege of Edward R Murrow at CBS News, one of the first employees at a start-up called CNN, and for the last two decades, a commentator on National Public Radio (npr), Schorr gained fame for being on U.S. President Richard M. Nixon’s “enemies list,” an achievement that Schorr delighted in more than being on the Emmy’s (awards) list.
Born in the Bronx, he wrote in his memoir (which sits next to my bed), that he had an unhappy childhood, and grew up fatherless, fat and Jewish. At the age of 12, he sold his first story to a local Bronx newspaper, and in college he wrote stories. After serving in WW2 in a U.S. Army intelligence unit, he learned Dutch and wrote for a Netherlands West Indies news service. But what he wanted most of all was to be a foreign reporter for The New York Times. He finally got his chance in 1953, and was given a three day tryout with The Times. He was supposed to write a few paragraphs, but his scoop was so great (an interview with Robert Moses), that he wrote and published a page. He never got the job though. He was told that there were already too many bylines with Jewish sounding names at The Times. He was wooed by Edward R. Murrow at CBS TV instead, and it was there that Schorr became a household name in America and in the Kremlin.
Schorr won Emmy’s in each of the three of the Watergate years 1972-1974, and was hated by the heads of the CIA and FBI. David Broder, a longtime columnist for The Washington Post, said, “I think he’s unique in the sense that he’s been at the center of so many different stories, both here in Washington and overseas, for so long. He kept his perspective so well and does not ever exaggerate what’s taking place, but really let you know why it’s important.”
I recall with glee the time I met Schorr at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, and I mainly recall a piece he wrote last September, which read, “This is the first time I have worked on Yom Kippur. I hope to be forgiven. On Monday evening, I should have broken the fast at the home of Bill Safire for the 40th time. Three weeks ago, Helen Safire advised that Bill was “feeling unwell,” and the break-the-fast party would have to be next year.” The piece was his obituary for William Safire.
See some photos here.