25 Years Of Weekend Edition: From Our First Show

On the morning of Nov. 2, 1985, NPR debuted Weekend Edition hosted by Scott Simon. Twenty-five years later, Scott's a regular Saturday guest in our homes. In honor of our anniversary, here's Scott's first conversation with legendary news analyst Daniel Schorr, who passed away this year.

November 2, 1985

SCOTT SIMON: From National Public Radio in Washington, DC, this is Weekend Edition. I'm Scott Simon. On this day in 1947, Howard Hughes got into his 200-ton wooden seaplane, the Spruce Goose, and got it to fly for just a mile, no more than 70 feet above the water. It was the only flight the Spruce Goose ever made, and the age of balsa wood aviation never quite arrived. Today's also the birthday anniversary of presidents Warren Harding and James Polk, and the explorer Daniel Boone. The news of the week in review is next on Saturday, November 2, 1985, our first issue of Weekend Edition.

Hear Our Very First 'Week In Review'

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Week In Review With Daniel Schorr, Nov. 2, 1985

PRES RONALD REAGAN: I would characterize our arms control position as: deep cuts, no first-strike advantage, defensive research — because defense is safer than offense — and, no cheating.

SIMON: President Reagan announced on Thursday that the United States will now present a new arms reduction plan to the Soviet Union. American negotiators requested a weeks' extension in the Geneva Arms Talks to permit time for a full discussion of the new proposal. The Soviets have agreed to that extension. With us now for our Week in Review is Weekend Edition Washington Correspondent, Daniel Schorr. Dan, what do we know about this new proposal that's being prepared, and is it significantly different from the last one?

DANIEL SCHORR:  What we know about the new proposal is that it isn't really very significantly different from the last one. Some of the numbers have been juggled a little bit, and there is still in it the basic argument between the United States and the Soviet Union about what it is that you count, so that therefore even the numbers may not be very meaningful. There's been no real concession on the US's determination to go ahead with the Star Wars program. But the old thing has been repackaged, and it is significant that it was found necessary to repackage it.

You'll recall that a week ago around this time the US position had been, let's sort of take the accent away from the whole arms control thing and let's move it towards human rights and regional conflicts, and make that the big issue. That has not worked, and so it's become necessary to go back to saying, yes, arms control is important. The Soviets have also, however, found that their position of trying to keep the accent on arms control and forget about human rights also hasn't worked, which I imagine is why they've decided to allow Yelena Bonner, the wife of Sakharov, to leave, and why — as reported by Israel's Prime Minister Peres — they seem to be taking a possibly more liberal attitude toward Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union.

SIMON: How do we know these things don't work? The President, for example, last week goes to the United Nations and emphasizes human rights, and the Soviet Union, of course, has been emphasizing their concern about a space-based defense, how do we know that because they run these things out and they seem to emphasize a new position a week later, that the audience they were playing to didn't receive it.

SCHORR: Well, one easy way is that Secretary Schulz hears from NATO allies that it's not working in their countries, and that the Dutch were about to announce the deployment in 1988 of 48 Cruise missiles, and say, hey wait a minute, this is an awful time to be giving us this black eye with our own public. You've got to do something to show that you're peaceably-minded. That's how you find that out.

SIMON:  How are the Soviets likely to react to any proposal that doesn't seem to touch on the matter of the space-based defense?

SCHORR:  Well, I never know how in the end the Soviets will react to anything, because they don't tell you the fall-back positions. But it seems very clear that their primary objective is to stop the Star Wars program. That, as far as they're concerned, if Star Wars goes ahead, it is to them an incentment, an inducement, or even an incitement to have more and more offensive missiles because they say they will have to overcome and defeat any Star Wars program. So that we are faced with a problem that, in order to get a reduction in offensive missiles, they insist there be no defensive program of that sort in space.

SIMON: We had an incident this week where a Soviet sailor jumped ship near New Orleans. After interviews with US officials, he was returned to his ship. A federal judge here in Washington ruled last night that the ship ought to be permitted to leave New Orleans; I think it's inching somewhere up the Mississippi right now. Do you think it's possible this incident would have been handled differently had not this summit been on everybody's mind.

SCHORR: No, I don't. And I really think it's the height of cynicism — and perhaps it's the cynical age we live in — that people connect two things, whether or not they ought to be connected. It's unimaginable that the Reagan administration or all administrations would let somebody leave the country who really wanted to defect. It is clear that the Reagan administration had taken a position after the original mistake by the Immigration Service in letting the — in carrying the man back to the ship twice, that after that it was clear that the US administration was not going to let that ship leave if it was going to carry this man against his will.

But as often happens, while they had the man, they clearly had the opportunity to remind him what would happen to relatives and all the rest. At which point, when interviewed by the State Department, he said voluntarily that he wanted to go back; at which point, you can't keep him.

SIMON: Let's switch to South Africa for a moment. The South African, of course, today signed an order which bars  television equipment, still-photographic cameras, radio equipment from the riot-torn areas of the country. How do you think this is going to change the evening news and our perception of the story in South Africa?

SCHORR: Oh, Scott, that's a big and very important issue, which I think that television in America has not really faced up to yet. You'll recall that, when in the town of Chana in Syria, the Syrians murdered about 10,000 people in putting down what they considered to be dissent, the world hardly ever knew about it because the Syrians have such total police control, they never allowed any cameras in. On the other hand, when there were atrocities in Sabra and Shatila, the Palestinian camps in Lebanon, we got to know about it a lot, because the democratic Israelis allowed cameras around there.

What happens, therefore, is that a government decides if it wants to be cynical about it, that it can do whatever it wants as long as it keeps the cameras out. What does television then do? When I was at CBS, I used to know from great experience that if I came up with a story, a producer would say, Where are the pictures? And if there weren't any pictures to show, they'd say well put it into Cronkite's script in 30 or 45 seconds. Television does not like "tell" stories. South Africa is making this into a "tell" story, and American television is going to have to figure out a way to combat that. I don't think they have a way.

SIMON:  Yeah. Do you think the networks — commercial networks at any rate certainly — are going to reduce their commitment to this story, the resources they commit to it?

SCHORR: They will not reduce the resources, they'll keep the cameras there, they'll go through all the signs of being ready to do anything that they can do, but the fact of the matter remains that if they have no pictures there'll be no pictures, and after a couple of weeks they'll be going on to stories which do have pictures.

SIMON: OK, thank you very much, Daniel Schorr, Weekend Edition Washington Correspondent.



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