In Uncategorized on July 23, 2010 at 19:34

Daniel Schorr, Journalist, Dies at 93


Published: July 23, 2010

Daniel Schorr, whose aggressive reporting over 70 years as a respected broadcast and print journalist brought him into conflict with censors, the Nixon administration and network superiors, died Friday in Washington. He was 93.

His death was announced by National Public Radio, where he had been a commentator for two decades. A spokeswoman, Anna Christopher, said he died at a Washington hospital after a short illness. He lived in Washington.

Mr. Schorr, a protégé of Edward R. Murrow at CBS News, initially made his mark at CBS as a foreign correspondent, most notably in the Soviet Union. He opened the network’s Moscow bureau in 1955 and became well enough acquainted with the Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev — whom he called “the most fascinating person I ever met” — to secure for “Face the Nation” the first television interview for which Khrushchev ever sat. (He had never even done one for Soviet television.) At the end of 1957 Mr. Schorr went home for the holidays and was denied readmission to the Soviet Union.

His 23-year career at CBS was cut short in 1976 when, in what Mr. Schorr later called “the most tumultuous experience of my career,” he obtained a copy of a suppressed House of Representatives committee report on highly dubious activities by the Central Intelligence Agency.

He showed a draft on television and discussed its contents, but when neither of CBS’s book subsidiaries was willing to publish the document, produced by the House Select Committee on Intelligence under Otis G. Pike, a New York Democrat, Mr. Schorr provided it — anonymously, he vainly hoped — to The Village Voice.

This led to threats requiring police protection, to investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Congress, and to Mr. Schorr’s being relieved of reporting duty. Although editorial and public opinion subsequently swung in his favor and Mr. Schorr, who came to be seen as a beleaguered reporter defending a principle, became a popular speaker on the lecture circuit, what he called his “love-hate affair” with CBS News was ended.

A quarter-century later he mused: “Washed away by one controversial leak too many? Undone by a reporting style that proved indigestible to a network worried about affiliates and regulations? Unable to adapt myself to corporate tugs on the reins? Unwilling to exempt my own network from my investigative reporting?” His conclusion: “All of that, I guess.”

(Interviewed in 2008, Mr. Schorr still refused to identify his source for the Pike committee report.)

At 60, with no thought of retirement, Mr. Schorr endured a brief and disappointing stint as a journalism professor at the University of California, Berkeley — he found the students most interested in his celebrity — and became a freelance lecturer and writer. The Des Moines Register and Tribune engaged him to write a column, but it was apparently not provocative enough, and after two years the paper’s syndicate did not renew his contract.

Then, after he narrated some public television specials and offered twice-a-week commentaries for the Independent Television News Association, an executive of the association introduced him in 1979 to Ted Turner, the swashbuckling Southerner who was in the process of creating CNN, the first cable news network.

The two met in a hotel penthouse in Las Vegas, and after a brief discussion Mr. Schorr became the fledgling network’s first employee. He turned down a vice presidency, the position of Washington bureau chief and stock options in favor of the role of senior news analyst.

Mr. Schorr insisted on an agreement, which he drafted in the lobby after consulting his business agent and lawyer, to which Mr. Turner scrawled his signature with scarcely a glance, stating that “no demand will be made upon him that would compromise his professional ethics and responsibilities.”

The venture, initially on a shoestring, nevertheless took off, and the unlikely duo got along well, overcoming a disagreement that developed in 1981 when Mr. Turner, in an on-air editorial that ran several times, asked viewers to write Congress urging that violent movies be banned. (Mr. Schorr shared Mr. Turner’s aversion to violent entertainment but objected to his call for a ban.)

Mr. Turner defended Mr. Schorr when Senator Barry Goldwater, the Arizona Republican, whom Mr. Schorr had once offended while at CBS, wanted him fired. Goldwater had held a grudge since Mr. Schorr reported on the enthusiasm of right-wing Germans for him as he secured the 1964 presidential nomination and noted that a planned postconvention Goldwater trip mainly involved time at an American military recreation center in Berchtesgaden, site of a favorite Hitler retreat.

Eventually, however, Mr. Schorr and Mr. Turner fell out over a CNN plan to team John Connally, the former Texas governor and Nixon Treasury secretary, with Mr. Schorr as commentators at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas.

It was improper, Mr. Schorr said, to mix a politician with a journalist, and he invoked for the first time the 1979 agreement allowing him to veto assignments. The network asked him to drop that right in early 1985, and when he refused, he was told to take leave until his contract expired that May. Shortly thereafter he joined NPR as a commentator, a position he held until his death.

Born in the Bronx on Aug. 31, 1916, to parents who emigrated from what is now Belarus, Daniel Louis Schorr had an unhappy childhood. In his memoir, “Staying Tuned” (Pocket Books, 2001), he said that in writing the book he had come to realize that “being poor, fat, Jewish, fatherless” had made him feel like an outsider, and that he had “achieved identity through my stories.”



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