Monday, July 26, 2010


I have long been a fan of National Public Radio (NPR) and one of the reasons was the almost delicious and independent presence since 1985 of Senior News Analyst and famed commentator Daniel Schorr. Prior to NPR Schorr had a distinguished 23 year career with CBS (the last active member of smokin’ Edward R Murrow's Boys) where he impressively earned the enmity of Richard Nixon in 1971 (Watergate). Ted Turner tapped Schorr as his first employee in 1979 and he called CNN home for several years. Schorr gave CNN instant credibility and a place in the market.

The always feisty and outspoken (I say courageous) Schorr followed an almost no holds barred approach that startled and cajoled the subjects of his attention. He validated his effectiveness by earning a place on Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List” and was denounced in Pravda as a "provocateur" and denied return to the Soviet Union in 1957 after refusing to cooperate with Soviet censors and antagonizing Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in a Face the Nation interview. Schorr was then head of CBS’s Moscow Bureau, but boy did he make a point...

While he was mostly recognized as an award winning radio and TV journalist, he was one of the mainstays of The Christian Science Monitor where he very impressively plied his trade in newspapers from 1948 to 2009.

I liked the idea that he served in WWII in Army Intelligence but never thought the CIA and FBI beyond his purview. No sacred cows there – the truth will out. CBS and the NY Times who had nurtured hard wired relationships with these entities didn’t appreciate Schorr’s candor. Schorr’s handling of a suppressed House of Representatives Intelligence Committee report (The Pike Report) on illegal activities in the CIA and FBI and all the attendant posturing turned out to be a good lesson but nothing more than a temporary speed breaker for Schorr.

Working to the end, Schorr last appeared on NPR with that distinctive voice of his just a couple of weeks ago. In his remarkable six decade career he reported and ultimately interpreted and opined the news for NPR setting the standard for modern investigative journalism. Given that role Schorr proclaimed that NPR was his own, Promised Land because, "Nobody ever told me what not to do."

With a brilliant candlepower Schorr sometimes had little patience for those mere mortals who couldn’t or wouldn’t walk the walk but they nevertheless remained part of his constituency. Schorr embraced a mostly liberal perspective but that didn’t stop him from tenaciously defending to his core the opportunity for anybody to communicate and espouse their causes and perspectives. Schorr bemoaned the “Slippery, Sliding Scale of Civility” in our society which has turned out to be a harbinger of even greater demonstrations of disrespect in the 21st century. Schorr believed that we all win when we engage a respectful exchange of ideas and perspectives whether it be personal, business or political – however diametrically opposed we are.

Daniel Schorr was 93 and lived a full and productive life leaving what may be an unapproachable legacy for journalism – especially when you consider his pedigree and witness to world history. He made a difference and always guaranteed that we would have all the information and perspectives – sometimes at personal expense. Daniel Schorr made sure that we didn’t forget the lessons of history. As Bill Moyers wrote immediately following news of Schorr’s passing, "With razor-sharp wit, personal courage and love of our craft, he distinguished himself and journalism."

Daniel Schorr because of his personal conviction and character was the archetype for that almost extinct journalistic model that embraces the truth whatever the cost and really didn’t have any other options save to pursue that path. I ask who is capable of picking up the gauntlet and giving us that kind of balance in the future?

I now have an even greater sense of my mortality, especially as I move through my 60’s. When Friends and those that occupy sacred and highly respected status in our lives move on - it signals the beginning of the end of our upright status on this planet and I wonder whether how many of us would in the final reckoning have made such a courageous difference. Well done and sleep well, Daniel.


Ned Buxton

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