Daniel Shorr, the last living member of Edward R. Murrow’s legendary team at CBS News – and who may very well have been the last honest man in American journalism – died today. He was 93 years old.
His career, which spanned more than six decades and took him all over tthe globe, started in 1946, when he started as a foreign correspondent reporting on the Marshall Plan and the fragile new NATO alliancer from post-war europe. He would serve in that role for twenty years, opening the first US News Bureau in Moscow in 1955, traveled the world with Presidet Eisenhower in the late fifties and returned to Germany in 1960 to cover the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe for six more years before returning to the US and hanging up his foreign correstondent press credentials and delved into domestic affairs.
It was in this capacity that he gained his greatest notoriety – as one of the names on Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List.”
In 1972, the Watergate break-in brought Schorr a full-time assignment as CBS’ chief Watergate correspondent. Schorr’s exclusive reports and on-the-scene coverage at the Senate Watergate hearings earned him his three Emmys. He unexpectedly found himself a part of his own story when the hearings turned up a Nixon “enemies list” with his name on it and evidence that the President had ordered that he be investigated by the FBI. This “abuse of a Federal agency” figured as one count in the Bill of Impeachment on which Nixon would have been tried had he not resigned in August of 1974.
That autumn, Schorr moved to cover investigations of the CIA and FBI scandals-what he called “the son of Watergate.” Once again, he became a part of his own story. When the House of Representatives, in February of 1976, voted to suppress the final report of its intelligence investigating committee, Schorr arranged for publication of the advance copy he had exclusively obtained. This led to his suspension by CBS and an investigation by the House Ethics Committee in which Schorr was threatened with jail for contempt of Congress if he did not disclose his source. At a public hearing, he refused on First Amendment grounds, saying that “to betray a source would mean to dry up many future sources for many future reporters… It would mean betraying myself, my career and my life.”
In the end, the committee decided 6 to 5 against a contempt citation. Schorr was asked by CBS to return to broadcasting but chose to resign to write his account of his stormy experience in a book, Clearing the Air. He accepted an appointment as Regents Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and for two years wrote a syndicated newspaper column.
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.
Shorr landed at NPR after leaving CNN, and coincidentally, it was the fall of 1985 when I became a daily listener. It is fitting that I turn it off today.