How devastating it is to hear about the passing of veteran newsman/journalist Daniel Schorr, whose fourth-estate notoriety was immortalized when he found himself ranked No. 17 with a bullet on President Richard Milhous Nixon’s “enemies list.” Schorr died today at the age of 93 after a short illness, according to NPR’s Anna Christopher—Schorr had worked for National Public Radio as a commentator for the past 25 years.
What saddens me about the death of Schorr is that there appear to be fewer and fewer individuals in the journalism profession worthy of the very title “journalist.” Schorr earned his street cred as a protégé of Edward R. Murrow, and worked for the Tiffany Network as a foreign correspondent in 1955, eventually opening the network’s bureau in Moscow that same year. Two years later, the Soviets let Dan know he wasn’t welcome any more, denying him readmission after he had continuously battled with Russian censors.
Schorr worked for CBS until 1976, when he was shown the door by the network after he leaked a controversial House of Representatives committee report on the activities of the CIA to the Village Voice. Schorr had tried to get one of CBS’ book divisions to publish the report, but they weren’t interested—and so he handed off the document to the Voice, hoping the contribution would remain anonymous. Investigated by a House ethics committee after he admitted leaking the report, Schorr refused to rat out the individual who gave him the document in the first place, citing his First Amendment right to protect his source. (The committee later chose not to cite the reporter on a 6-5 vote.)
After being canned by CBS, Schorr flirted with freelance writing and teaching journalism at Berkeley before being approached by mogul Ted Turner, who was in the process of building Cable News Network. Schorr became his first employee. But his stint at CNN would last only until 1985—Schorr blanched when Turner asked him to partner up with former Texas Governor John Connally as commentators for the network’s coverage of the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas. He was then hired by NPR, and could be heard on the network’s Weekend Edition broadcast as recently as July 10th of this year.
Schorr was the recipient of several Emmy Awards while at CBS for his refreshingly blunt coverage of the Watergate scandal—something that did not endear him to “Tricky Dick” and his administration, who asked the FBI to investigate Dan at one time. Upon acquiring a copy of Nixon’s “enemies list,” he took to the airwaves to broadcast the information…and was genuinely surprised to find himself among the honor roll (at number seventeen). “I consider my presence on the enemies list a greater tribute than the Emmys list,” he announced in a 2009 interview with a Montgomery County, MD newspaper.
As far as I’m concerned, I can’t pay this exemplary journalist enough tribute—for he was a rare gem and a credit to his profession. R.I.P, Mr. Schorr. You’ll never know how much you’ll be missed.