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Legendary Political Commentator Dan Schorr Dies at Age 93

The radio airwaves lose a commanding presence with the passing of legendary broadcaster Dan Schorr.  Legendary newscaster and elder statesman of political commentary Daniel Schorr died recently at age 93 following a brief illness.  Schorr, who spent the last 25 years of his long career as a senior news analyst with National Public Radio (NPR), aired his final broadcast on Saturday, July 10.  A journalist for more than 60 years, Schorr was the last active member of Edward R. Murrow’s “Boys”, a group of journalists who worked at CBS News in the 1940s and 1950s.  He joined NPR in 1985 and gave regular commentaries on the “Weekend Edition” and “Week in Review” programs.

Scott Simon, host of “Weekend Edition”, said “Nobody else in broadcast journalism – or perhaps in any field – had as much experience and wisdom” as Schorr.  “I’m just glad that, after being known for so many years as a tough and uncompromising journalist, NPR listeners also got to know the Dan Schorr that was playful, funny and kind.  In a business that’s known for burning out people, Dan Schorr shined for nearly a century.”

Schorr was famous for his straightforward coverage of the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s and even discovered his name on President Richard Nixon’s infamous “enemies” list.  “He lived through so many years of history, and he put that to the service of his commentaries,” said Geoffrey Cowan, dean emeritus of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication.  “He never lost his edge.  He was also outspoken and independent.”

In 1975, New York magazine called Schorr the “great abrasive” for his pointed coverage of the House Intelligence Committee hearings on covert CIA operations, including assassination plots.  Schorr had been given a copy of the intelligence committee’s draft report and reported some of the contents on the CBS Sunday News – the only journalist to do so.  When CBS refused to back Schorr, he offered the full report to the Village Voice, which published a 24-page special section headlined “The Report on the CIA that President Ford Doesn’t Want You to Read.”  The bold move prompted CBS to demand that Schorr resign, giving him time to write the book “Clearing the Air” before he was hired by a very new 24-hour broadcast operation called CNN.

When Schorr was approaching age 70, NPR asked him to become a commentator, a post that he held until his death.  Schorr says that NPR “accorded some of the respect of an elder statesman” and he became renowned for putting current events into historical context.

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