Posts Tagged ‘honesty’

Dan Schorr, Fierce Journalist, Tremendous Role Model, Passes at 93

Dan Schorr was the last of a kind.

When the veteran reporter and commentator – the last of Edward R. Murrow’s legendary CBS team – passed away yesterday at 93, real media passed with him.

Schorr, who once described himself as a “living history book,” passed away Friday morning at Georgetown University Hospital. His family did not provide a cause of death.

In a modern era where the entertainment and politics and presentation matter more than the truth, reality, and objectivity of the story, we lost with Dan the energy, integrity, and enterprise that came with journalists of his era. No opinions, no commentary, simply real facts from which we could – and he encouraged we should – draw our own conclusions.

Scott Simon, the host of NPR’s, Weekend Edition, said that Schorr was a “fierce journalist, and a tender friend and father.” Schorr was still working at NPR at the age of 93, just a few days before he passed. July 10th aired his last “Week in Review” commentary.

As NPR’s obituary for Dan states,

Schorr’s 20-year career as a foreign correspondent began in 1946. After serving in U.S. Army intelligence during World War II, he began writing from Western Europe for the Christian Science Monitor and later The New York Times, witnessing postwar reconstruction, the Marshall Plan and the creation of the NATO alliance.

Schorr joined CBS News in 1953 as one of “Murrow’s boys,” the celebrated news team put together by Edward R. Murrow. He reopened the network’s Moscow bureau, which had been shuttered by Joseph Stalin in 1947.

In 1955, with the post-Stalin thaw in the Soviet Union, he received accreditation to open a CBS bureau in Moscow. His two-and-a-half-year stay culminated in the first-ever exclusive television interview with a Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, filmed in his Kremlin office in 1957 for CBS’ Face the Nation. However, Schorr’s repeated defiance of Soviet censorship eventually landed him in trouble with the KGB. After a brief arrest on trumped-up charges, he was barred from the Soviet Union at the end of 1957.

Schorr covered the building of the Berlin Wall as CBS bureau chief for Germany and Western Europe. In 1962, he aired a celebrated portrait of citizens living under Communist rule in East Germany.

Schorr was the reporter’s reporter, always chasing the story. But sometimes, the story chased him.

Again, as NPR stated,

Schorr was surprised to find himself on the so-called Enemies List that had been drawn up by Richard Nixon’s White House when he read it on the air. The list — naming hundreds of political opponents, entertainers and publications considered hostile to the administration — became the basis for one of the charges of impeachment against Nixon.

He counted his inclusion on it as his greatest achievement.

In 1975, Schorr reported on assassinations that had been carried out by the CIA. “The anger of the administration can be gauged from Richard Helms’ denunciation of Schorr,” historian Garry Wills recounts in his 2010 book, Bomb Power. Helms, then the CIA director, confronted Schorr in the presence of other reporters at the White House, calling him names such as “son of a bitch” and “killer.”
“Killer Schorr: That’s what they ought to call you,” Helms said.

In 1976, Schorr reported on the findings of the Pike Committee, which had investigated illegal CIA and FBI activities. The committee had voted to keep its final report secret, but Schorr leaked a copy to the Village Voice, which published it.

Schorr was threatened with a $100,000 fine and jail time for contempt of Congress. But during congressional testimony, Schorr refused to identify his source, citing First Amendment protections. The House ethics committee voted 6 to 5 against a contempt citation. But CBS had already taken Schorr off the air. He ultimately resigned from the network that year.

In 1979, Schorr was asked by Ted Turner to help create the Cable News Network, serving in Washington as its senior correspondent until 1985, when he left in a dispute over an effort to limit his editorial independence.

Since then, Dan worked primarily for NPR, contributing regularly to All Things Considered, Weekend Edition Saturday, Weekend Edition Sunday, and NPR live coverage of breaking news.

He has told his exciting life story in his memoir, Staying Tuned: A Life in Journalism (Pocket Books, 2001). Judith Viorst says, “The stories are delicious, the recall is astounding, the insights are witty and shrewd – and the writing sings.”

Talking about Dan’s work, Scott Simon commented,

What other person was personally acquainted with both Richard Nixon and Frank Zappa? Dan was around for both the Russian Revolution and the Digital Revolution. Nobody else in broadcast journalism, or perhaps any field had as much experience and wisdom. I am just glad that, after being known for so many years as a tough and uncompromising journalist, NPR listeners also got to know the Dan Schorr that was playful, funny and kind. In a business that’s known for burning out people, Dan Schorr shined for nearly a century.

Dan Schorr’s shining career and influence on millions of viewers and listeners over nearly six decades can never be measured.

I grew up with Dan. His take on the world helped to shape my own.

Dan Schorr, thank you. For the truth, for the reliability, and for the inspiration you provided us all.


Some People Leave a Mark on the World; You May Leave a Stain…

Growing up, I’d always been taught that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. And that’s been my modus operandi during all my years in Washington.

Granted, I would rant and rave in private about the idiocy of this person in the Senate, the obtuseness of this person in the House, the self-aggrandizement of this NGO leader or the self-possession of this journalist.

But for the most part, I’ve held my tongue when confronting the person directly. From staff members who worked barely 30% of the time or whom I didn’t fire because they would never find another job, to critics who made accusations too outrageous to be true even in comic books, I’ve held my tongue and played the nice guy.

To be honest, I’m over that.

There is too much object stupidity and outright ignorance on all fronts these days. To not comment, to say nothing, to hold my tongue, to not be honest…is irresponsible. The country and the world needs honesty. Not political correctness, not open loving touchy-feelu arms. The world needs a smack in the head.

So if I tap you on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, you’re stupid,” don’t take it personally. It isn’t partisan, it isn’t personal, it isn’t anything but a reality check.

And since I live in Washington, this may become a full-time job…

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