Daniel Schorr, the relentless radio and television reporter whose career spanned more than 60 years, from the dawn of the Cold War through the war in Iraq, has died. He was 93.
The veteran newsman, who served as a senior analyst for National Public Radio since 1985, died after a short illness, NPR said today in a statement citing his family.
Schorr was the last full-time journalist from a group known as the “Murrow Boys” -- a team of brilliant reporters assembled by the fabled CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow in the 1940s and 1950s. He covered Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hearings on alleged communist infiltration of the U.S. Army on his first day at the network in 1953, and two decades later, ranked high on the so-called enemies list compiled by President Richard Nixon’s staff for his coverage of the Watergate scandal.
He combined untiring hustle with terse prose and a forceful on-air delivery. He lobbied hard for airtime and sometimes antagonized his colleagues as much as the subjects of his reporting.
His CBS career unraveled in 1976 after he secretly gave a Congressional report to the Village Voice newspaper for publication in defiance of a House of Representatives ban. Briefly, he permitted a CBS colleague to fall under suspicion for the leak.
Schorr later said that he mishandled leaking the document, but he was unapologetic in his conviction that the House shouldn’t suppress its own committee report on illicit Central Intelligence Agency activities.
Summoned before a House ethics committee, he narrowly escaped a contempt citation. Public opinion swung in Schorr’s favor after he spoke eloquently in defense of a free press during a televised hearing. CBS executives reconsidered their plan to fire him, but Schorr resigned anyway, convinced that his CBS career was over.
Three years later, Ted Turner recruited Schorr as the first employee of Cable News Network to lend credibility to his upstart broadcasting venture.
Schorr was born in the Bronx, New York, on Aug. 31, 1916, two years after his parents arrived in the U.S. from Belarus.
Schorr’s father died when he was six. His younger brother, Alvin, was stricken with scarlet fever and polio. Schorr worked as an after-school paperboy to supplement his widowed mother’s income.
In his 2001 memoir, “Staying Tuned: A Life in Journalism,” Schorr said he had suppressed memories of an unhappy childhood and “how I felt fat, unattractive, Jewish, an outsider struggling for a way in.”
Schorr attributed his emotional detachment to his early hardships, though he concluded that his dispassion was useful in reporting. He sold his first story at 12 when he witnessed a woman’s death in a fall from the roof of his apartment building. Coolly, he summoned the police, interviewed them about the victim and telephoned the Bronx Home News to collect $5 for his news tip.
At DeWitt Clinton High School, Schorr settled on journalism as his career. He edited the school newspaper and the senior yearbook before his graduation in 1933.
He then enrolled in City College of New York, which was tuition-free and “a hotbed of radicalism,” as he put it. Although Schorr covered campus demonstrations for the college paper, he preferred to take paying jobs off campus. Schorr completed his college education in 1939 by attending night school.
During college, Schorr wrote first for the Jewish Daily Bulletin and then for its parent organization, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, where he stayed until 1941. Shortly before Pearl Harbor, he took a job as U.S. editor of a Dutch news agency, rewriting cables from overseas.
Drafted in 1943, Schorr spent the duration of World War II in Texas after the Army ignored his requests to be a war correspondent.
At the war’s conclusion, Schorr returned to the Dutch news agency and seized an offer in 1946 to work in the Netherlands. He mastered the language and became a freelance contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times and the American Broadcasting Co. before he joined CBS in 1953.
Schorr worked in the network’s Washington bureau until 1955, when he returned to Europe to reopen a Moscow office for CBS. He then served in Warsaw and Bonn. Returning to Washington at the age of 50, he soon met and married Lisbeth Bamberger, a health expert who worked in an anti-poverty program.
In 1970, Schorr wrote “Don’t Get Sick in America,” the first of several non-fiction books. A popular speaker, Schorr sometimes upset the CBS brass with his candor on the lecture circuit. But Schorr survived until 1976 by dint of his reporting skills.
Bill Small, his Washington bureau chief, told Schorr in 1972: “‘You know, I think you are one prize son of a bitch. And I wish I had a dozen sons of bitches like you,’” Schorr later recounted, adding, “That about encapsulated my relations with CBS.”
His tenure at CNN was shorter, though less tumultuous. Schorr joined the fledging network in 1980, but he was pushed out in 1985. He said at the time that new managers wouldn’t renew the deal he had struck with Turner to decline assignments that he regarded as a professional breach. He elaborated on the problems in his memoir, saying he objected to being paired as a “co-commentator” with former Texas Governor John Connally.
Schorr was soon invited to expand on the commentaries he had provided occasionally for National Public Radio. Among other duties, he agreed to join Scott Simon, the host of “Weekend Edition Saturday,” for a nine-minute discussion reviewing the week’s news.
Even as an octogenarian, Schorr hustled for NPR. President Bill Clinton changed the time of his Saturday radio address after Schorr advised him of a conflict with “Weekend Edition.”
Survivors include his wife, son Jonathan, daughter Lisa and brother Alvin L. Schorr, former dean of the Graduate School of Social Work at New York University.
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