Daniel Schorr, Nixon’s ‘Real Media Enemy’


They don’t make TV journalists like Daniel Schorr anymore. Schorr, a Bronx native who died today at 93, was the last working reporter from Edward R. Murrow’s team at CBS, and spent a lot of his career in the highbrow-muckraker tradition, regularly afflicting the powerful. He was particularly good at annoying the hell out of the Nixon administration, for which he deserves every honor that will be thrown his way this weekend, and in fact got himself one of the twenty spots on Nixon’s so-called enemies list, which referred to him as “a real media enemy.”

That also led to one of the great moments in TV-news history. In 1974, when the list’s existence was revealed during the Watergate hearings, Schorr scrambled to get a copy, and it arrived a moment before airtime. He didn’t have time to read it before going on the air, but, looking to preserve his scoop, he dived in and read it on the live broadcast … and discovered, at No. 17, his own name. As he wrote in his autobiography, “I remember that my first thought was that I must go on reading without any pause, or gasp or look of wild surmise … I do not know how well I carried off my effort.”

Fired from CBS in 1976 after he refused to suppress an intelligence leak he’d obtained, he resettled at CNN in its early days, then at National Public Radio, where he was providing commentary as recently as two weeks ago. This week of Andrew Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod provides a moment to consider the slapdash state of political TV news, and an appropriate way to honor Schorr: Put on someone who works in the fact-based community, like Jim Lehrer or Rachel Maddow, and turn the screamers off.