THE BLOG

Epitaph for a Journalist and Journalism

07/23/2010 02:48 pm 14:48:43 | Updated May 25, 2011

Today I was transcribing the memory of another American journalist, Edward R. Murrow, when I briefly visited my Twitter page and saw that @DanielSchorr was trending. That could only mean one thing.

The nonagenarian voice of NPR, one of "Murrow's Boys" at CBS, Daniel Schorr, has died at 93.

I was just days away from placing a call to Schorr to share memories of working with Ed Murrow for my book, Truth is the Best Propaganda: Murrow in Washington.

Schorr outlived his former boss at CBS by 36 years. Murrow died two days after his 57th birthday on April 27, 1965. At the time of Murrow's death, Eric Sevareid said:

He was a shooting star and we will live in his afterglow a very long time. I never knew any person among those who worked in his realm to feel jealousy toward him, not only because he made himself a refuge for those in trouble, a source of strength for those who were weak, but because there was no basis for comparison. He was an original and we shall not see his like again.

Another Murrow colleague who worked with Schorr at CBS was Howard K. Smith. He described his boss:

When Murrow walked into your room, even if your back was turned, you would know that a commanding presence had come in, so strong was his personality. Back when he covered breaking stories, he wrote journalism you can still find in books as models of excellence. And he spoke it in a voice of which it was said, if he merely said, "twenty-two," he made it sound like the most important utterance since the Gettysburg Address.

What will be said of Schorr may not quite reach to the height of Murrow's influence, but nevertheless, there is a feeling, much like we had last summer with Walter Cronkite, that we shall not see their like again.

Let's face it. This is the same week that a USDA official in Georgia was fired, by no less than the White House, for rumormongering over investigative journalism.

We are living in a time in which facts are almost secondary to getting a story out, the juicier and more salacious, the better. If you can kill the messenger, why worry about the details of the message. The truth seems to follow slowly behind the propaganda. It's as if we are not seeking our better selves, but to better ourselves. I recall Donald Rumsfeld saying in 2004, "I've stopped reading the newspapers," and I'm about to that condition now, including television news, although I still enjoy C-SPAN.

With Daniel Schorr's passing, let's take a moment today and think about the state of media in America. Schorr found new life at National Public Radio when he was nearly 70. Now that's what I call a second wind. It's the same type of uplift we need to infuse in our reporting and commentary. I don't know about you, but there is little that inspires me in today's headlines, and not much that gives me pause to think.

As NPR will likely say today: "This was Daniel Schorr."