Colleagues Reflect On Schorr's Distinguished Career

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr died Friday at the age of 93 — eight decades after breaking after his first story. NPR's Tamara Keith speaks to Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather and other former colleagues about the mark he made on journalism in Washington and around the world.

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AUDIE CORNISH, host:

Now we'll turn to NPR's Tamara Keith, who spoke to several of Daniel Schorr's friends and colleagues after his death yesterday, at the age of 93.

TAMARA KEITH: Dan Schorr made a name for himself as a foreign correspondent for CBS News. He was the first person to secure a television interview with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1957. And then in the 1960s and '70s, he reported from Washington.

CBS's Bob Schieffer was a junior reporter in the bureau at the time.

Mr. BOB SCHIEFFER (Journalist; Moderator, "Face the Nation"): I've never known anybody more enthusiastic about getting stories and getting on television. And he never stopped. He loved to tweak people in positions of power.

KEITH: That tweaking extended from Schorr's editors, right up to the president of the United States. Richard Nixon claimed he didn't watch television, so Schieffer says Dan Schorr checked.

Mr. SCHIEFFER: You know what Dan Schorr did? He just called up his son-in-law David Eisenhower and said, does he watch television? He said, well, yeah, he watches it all the time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHIEFFER: And so Dan reported that.

KEITH: He also reported on Watergate. His relentless reporting helped earn a spot on Nixon's enemies list. Schieffer says that was something Schorr relished.

Mr. SCHIEFFER: I wouldn't be surprised that when they opened Dan's will that he'll see - he'll ask that that be put on his tombstone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHIEFFER: I think he - that was a matter of pride for Dan Schorr. I think he would've had his feelings hurt if Nixon hadn't put him on the enemies list, quite frankly.

KEITH: Dan Rather also worked in the CBS Washington bureau with Schorr. At the time, CBS dominated broadcast news.

Mr. DAN RATHER (Journalist): It was, in many ways, a throwback to another era in which reporters, including those in radio and television, wore out shoe leather, knocked on doors, made a lot of telephone calls.

KEITH: Schorr's career at CBS ended in controversy. But a few years later, he became the first broadcaster hired by a new, 24-hour, cable news network, CNN.

Reese Schonfeld founded the network along with Ted Turner, and he hired Schorr.

Mr. REESE SCHONFELD (Co-Founder, Cable News Network): His voice on the air was - it was not quite the voice of God, but maybe the voice of a demigod. He never had to say, this is Dan Schorr. They knew who he was when he started talking.

KEITH: And Schonfeld says Schorr brought instant credibility to CNN.

Mr. SCHONFELD: Once I hired Dan, I was able to get all sorts of other people because they knew we were all right.

KEITH: Schorr stayed six years at CNN, and left after clashing with Ted Turner. Schorr then settled in for his third and final act, at NPR.

Lou Cannon is a presidential historian who reported at the Washington Post for years. He says Schorr reminds him of that quote about journalists: Their job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

Mr. LOU CANNON (Journalist; Presidential Historian): I guess, in fairness, you'd probably say he did more of afflicting the comfortable. But I wish we had more people like him.

KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

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