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Daniel Schorr: 90 Years In A Newsworthy Life

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Daniel Schorr: 90 Years In A Newsworthy Life

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Daniel Schorr: 90 Years In A Newsworthy Life

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We do not typically observe the birthdays of our colleagues on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. But there are birthdays and then there are birthdays. When someone works at his trade every week at age 75 or 80, we say that's admirable. When he does it at the age of 90, we say that's our senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

Dan Schorr was born in New York City on August 31, 1916.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

I was the son of immigrants who had come from Belarus somewhere about 1913 to 1914. My father died when I was five years old. Also, I was a very fat kid and I have no doubt that the insecurity that I felt then had a very important effect on my journalistic career later, because I used to be so intent on getting the story. I had to have the story. I had to have it in the paper when I was working for a paper. I had to have it for television when I was working for television.

I was aware that a lot of people thought I was a little impolite in the way I constantly strove to get the scoop, the story. Even if I was fat, they couldn't ignore me because I had a big story.

SIEGEL: Today Dan turns 90. Over the past few weeks we've sat down together and recorded interviews about his career in post-war Holland, in Khrushchev's Moscow, in divided Germany and in Richard Nixon's Washington.

I've heard Dan Schorr's stories many times and I confess my favorites are the oldest ones. Here is the story of Daniel Schorr's first scoop. He was 12.

SCHORR: It was in the Bronx. Ground-floor apartment. I heard a big plop outside the window, put my head out the window and there was a man lying dead in the ground. And I stood there, waited for the police to come, tried to find out from them what they were finding out and then eventually I called our local newspaper, The Bronx Home News, which offered five dollars for original news stories.

I dictated an original news story about a suicide and earned my first five dollars in journalism. I often think back to that and say why did I stand there taking notes on what he wore and waiting for the cops? It was the first time I'd ever seen a dead person in my life. Why didn't I react more emotionally to that? It was the essential journalist who manages to absent himself from the situation and simply report it without feeling it.

SIEGEL: And then there's the story of how Dan Schorr became a news reporter instead of a music critic. He loves music and in the 1930s at the City College of New York he had written about the composer Ernest Bloch. His article drew the attention of Olan Downes, renowned music critic of The New York Times, who invited the young music writer to come brief him. Dan went to the Times building to meet the great critic.

SCHORR: And in the subway on the way down there I was reading the Times and there was a review by the famous Olan Downes of a concert the previous night. The New York Philharmonic had played. The soloist was Joseph Segetti(ph). And I read the review and it said at one point, Segetti's tone was as usual impeccable but the profile of the tone left something to be desired.

And I said, what the hell does that mean? I mean, this guy has a level of music that I'll never reach. I don't even know his - and so I got there, we talked about Ernest Bloch and when we finished, I said Mr. Downes, could I ask you a question? Sure, my boy, anything. In this review here, where you talk about Segetti and you say that you liked his tone but you didn't like the profile of the tone, what does that mean? He put his hand on my shoulder and said boy, don't let that kind of thing worry you. That's (expletive) that you write when you're on deadline.

I decided that music criticism was not respectable career.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: And for more than 20 years Dan has been writing for us, analyzing world events, drawing on a wealth of experience, asking good questions and leaving out that ingredient that you write when you're on deadline.

On this, his 90th, we'd like to wish a happy birthday to our colleague, Daniel Schorr.

(Soundbite of Happy Birthday to You)


You can hear more of our interview with Daniel Schorr and see examples of his reporting from his time in television at

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