The Living History Book No More: Dan Schorr 1916-1910

Alan Greenblatt at NPR:

Daniel Schorr, a longtime senior news analyst for NPR and a veteran Washington journalist who broke major stories at home and abroad during the Cold War and Watergate, has died. He was 93.

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

As a journalist, Schorr was able to bring to contemporary news commentary a deep sense of how governmental institutions and players operate, as well as the perspective gained from decades of watching history upfront.

“He could compare presidents from Eisenhower on through, and that gave him historical context for things,” said Donald A. Ritchie, Senate historian and author of a book about the Washington press corps. “He had lived it, he had worked it and he had absorbed it. That added a layer to his broadcasting that was hard for somebody his junior to match.”

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. Ten years later, Schorr scored an exclusive broadcast interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the U.S.S.R. Communist Party chief — the first-ever with a Soviet leader. Schorr was barred from the U.S.S.R. later that year after repeatedly defying Soviet censors.

Michael Tomaskey at The Guardian:

Schorr comes from a time and culture, CBS News in the 1950s, when putting news on television was considered such a civic trust and responsibility that the news division didn’t even have to make a profit. He worked for Edward R. Murrow, and he reopened CBS’ Moscow bureau after it had been shuttered by Stalin in 1947. He covered the building of the Berlin Wall. I read his memoir when it came out a few years ago, and i remember that it was chock-a-block full of Iron Curtain stories of the sort one saw in spy-spoof movies of that era, the kind of just-speak-clearly-into-this-carnation tales that you didn’t think could have happened in real life.

Schorr gained his greatest notoreity, and was proudest, of being included on the infamous “enemies list” compiled by the Nixon White House of liberals of various stripe. If I’m not mistaken, he read the list on the air at CBS, including his own name. He won Emmy awards for his reporting in each of the Watergate years of 1972, 1973 and 1974.

He risked going to jail in 1976 to protect a source who’d fed him a congressional intelligence report that the panel had voted to keep secret – which is to say, these employees of the American people had conducted a thorough review of intelligence in their behalf and then voted to keep it from them. Schorr had leaked it to The Village Voice. He wouldn’t reveal his source, but the congressional panel voted 6-5 not to hold him in contempt. CBS got rid of him though.

He did a stint at CNN as it was starting up, and then in 1985 moved to National Public Radio doing reporting and commentaries. His most regular slot in recent years was right after the news in the 9:00 am hour (east coast time) of Scott Simon’s Saturday morning show, spending about four minutes commenting on the past week’s events around 9:07 am. I listened most weeks and am pretty sure he was on just this past Saturday, the trademark drollery conveying the unmissably caustic point with a friendly little ribbon on it.

I met him once, but just briefly, at an event at the Brookings Institution. The only other time I encountered him in person was about three years ago when I was in a Senate office building doing something or other. There on the sidewalk, getting out his press pass and readying himself to walk through the metal detector, was Schorr. Not bad at all, thought I – 90 years old and still pounding the pavement like that.

Rachel Sklar at Mediaite:

He remained active through the very last months of his life, gamely joining Twitter (dropping commentary and the occasional joke: “Would you call a summit over beer a ‘brew-haha’?”), and six months ago switched to composing his commentary for “All Things Considered” on a computer, rather than a typewriter. He was a fan favorite of any regular NPR listener, and clearly the staff as well.

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time:

One of this nation’s great reporters has died. Back in 2000, the writer Rick Bragg eulogized the death of another accomplished scribbler, 92-year-old Milt Sosin, by noting that Sosin’s heart had stopped the previous Sunday. “And only then, his pen,” Bragg wrote.

Much the same can be said for Schorr, 93, who I heard just a few weeks ago discussing the latest Russian spy case on NPR. His journalistic accomplishments over a 70-year career dwarf those of entire publications. He earned himself a spot on Richard Nixon’s so-called “enemies list,” got banned from Russia after interviewing Nikita Khrushchev and became CNN’s first employee in 1979, but only after forcing Ted Turner to sign a document stating that “no demand will be made upon him that would compromise his professional ethics and responsibilities.”

Daniel Schorr at The Christian Science Monitor:

Daniel Schorr wrote his first article as a reporter for the Monitor in 1948, when he was hired to cover the Netherlands, after having worked at news agencies and contributed to other news outlets. This article from the International Court of Justice was a fulfillment of his ambition to be a foreign correspondent at the beginning of his journalism career.

[…]

United Europe Congress Opens

May 7, 1948

Two years ago a union of European countries seemed just a dream of a few visionaries. Today some 800 delegates are gathering for the first United Europe Congress – and the matter-of-fact forecast is heard that a super-national structure will emerge in the course of 1949.

For some time it is not likely to be the all-embracing union from the British Isles to the Caucasus which has stirred the imagination of pan-Europeans for generations. Russia is busy “welding together an eastern European union of its own. But this very consolidation in east Europe has given the new impetus to the West to sing age-old rivalries and national divergencies.

Great Strides

Almost every major postwar development has had the effect of pushing western European countries towards some form of unity – the deepening shadow of Russia, the pooling of resources under the Marshall Plan and the Brussels “Western Union.”

Even a year ago, when the idea of a “United Europe Congress’* was envisaged, the organizers hardly expected that such strides would have been made before the delegates gathered.

I was in The Netherlands last July when the idea of this Congress was broached. Senator Pieter A. Kerstens, head of the organizing committee, hoped it would marshal the hitherto divided forces seeking European unity. It hardly was expected that May, 1948, would find half of Europe already ripe for such unity.

In the words of Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, who is here representing the European Parliamentary Union: “The tremendous boom of this idea in the past 18 months is due primarily to the policies of four statesmen – Churchill, Marshall, Bevin, and Stalin. Churchill gave Europe a common hope, Marshall a common interest, Bevin a common organization, and Stalin a common danger.”

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up

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