07 March, 2009
Daniel Louis Schorr is an American journalist who has covered the world for more than 60 years. He is now a Senior News Analyst for National Public Radio (NPR). Schorr has won three Emmy Awards for his television journalism.
Schorr was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Tillie Godiner and Gedaliah Tchornemoretz. He began his journalism career at the age of twelve, when he came upon a woman who had jumped or fallen from the roof of his apartment building. After calling the police, he phoned the Bronx Home News and was paid $5 for his information.
He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the West Bronx, where he worked on the Clinton News, the school paper. He graduated from City College of New York in 1939 while working for the Jewish Daily Bulletin. During World War II, Schorr served in Army Intelligence at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
Following several years as a stringer, in 1953 he joined CBS News as one of the recruits of Edward R. Murrow (becoming part of the later generation of Murrow's Boys). In 1955, with the post-Stalin thaw in the Soviet Union, he received accreditation to open a CBS bureau in Moscow. In June 1957, he obtained an exclusive interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Communist party chief. It aired on CBS's Face the Nation, Schorr's first television interview. Schorr left the Soviet Union later that year, because of Soviet censorship laws. When he applied for a new visa, it was denied by the Soviets.
In January 1962, he aired the first examination of everyday life under communism in East Germany, The Land Beyond the Wall: Three Weeks in a German City, which The New York Times called a "journalistic coup". After agreeing not to foster "propaganda" for the United States, Schorr was granted the rights to conduct the interviews in the city of Rostock. By airing everyday life, Schorr painted a picture of the necessity for a Communist state to seal itself off from the West in order to survive.
CBS executives were not amused when Schorr reported—incorrectly—that Barry Goldwater was said to "travel to Germany to join-up with the right-wing there," and visit "Hitler's one-time stomping ground" in Berchtesgaden, immediately after he became the Republican nominee for president. For obvious reasons, this did not fare well with Goldwater, who demanded an apology for the "CBS conspiracy" against his campaign for president.
Schorr attracted the anger of the Nixon White House. In 1971, after a dispute with White House aides, Schorr's friends, neighbors, and co-workers were questioned by the FBI about his habits. They were told that Schorr was under consideration for a high-level position in the environmental area. Schorr knew nothing about it. Later, during the Watergate hearings, it was revealed that Nixon aides had drawn up what became known as Nixon's Enemies List, and Daniel Schorr was on that list. Famously, Schorr read the list aloud on live TV, surprised to be reading his own name in that context. Schorr won Emmys for news reporting in 1972, 1973, and 1974.
Schorr provoked intense controversy in 1976 when he received and made public the contents of the secret Pike Committee report on illegal CIA and FBI activities. Called to testify before Congress, he refused to identify his source on First Amendment grounds, risking imprisonment. This did not mollify CBS executives, and Schorr ultimately resigned from his position at CBS in September 1976.
On May 14, 2006, on NPR's Weekend Edition, Schorr mentioned a meeting at the White House that took place with colleague A. M. Rosenthal and president Gerald Ford. Ford mentioned that the Rockefeller Commission had access to various CIA documents, including those referring to political assassinations. Although scolded at first for his television report by former CIA director Richard Helms, Schorr was vindicated by the text of the Pike Committee, which he obtained from an undisclosed source and leaked to The Village Voice.
In 1979, Schorr was among the first hired by Ted Turner and Reese Schoenfeld to deliver commentary and news analysis on the fledgling Cable News Network (CNN). His contract was not renewed in 1985, one of the two times he stated he was "fired". He then took the position that he currently holds, as Senior News Analyst at NPR. In that position, he regularly comments on current events for programs including All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He also wrote a column for the Christian Science Monitor for several decades.
In 1994, Schorr narrated the TV miniseries, Watergate. In the late 1990s, he appeared briefly as a newscaster in three Hollywood movies; The Game, The Net, and The Siege. In the 1997 film The Game starring Michael Douglas, Schorr spoke to the main character through his television. On NPR when asked if the media were biased to liberals and to Democrats, he said,"We only give the public what they want to hear!"
Schorr was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.