PULLMAN, Wash. — Daniel Schorr, a senior news analyst for National Public Radio, told an audience of nearly 2,000 Wednesday night (April 10) at Washington State University, he isn’t afraid of today’s journalists, he is afraid of their bosses.
Schorr, the recipient of WSU’s 2002 Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement, said network executives far removed from the newsroom are more committed to the bottom line than serving the public.
At age 85, he is the last of the legendary Murrow news team at CBS News. During a career spanning six decades, Schorr has covered every major event from the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of the 1950s to the Clinton impeachment hearings of the 1990s.
Schorr threw aside his original pre-Sept. 11 presentation “Forgive Us Our Press Passes: America and the Media” to address the role of the press today. He is alarmed the media and public equate listening to the U.S. government with patriotism.
As an example, he cited an incident where one of President George W. Bush’s cabinet members asked the five major networks to limit airtime given to videotapes made by Osama Bin Laden in the early days of “Operation Enduring Freedom” and the journalists complied. Journalists have to be able to retain a balance of what America needs to know “despite the government’s attempts to manipulate us,” Schorr said.
“It’s tough to do your job when they won’t let you in there and when you do go there, you’re not patriotic,” he said. “It’s a tough time for the press.”
Schorr criticized the media for its addiction to violence and cited the closing of foreign bureaus as an example of faltering commitment to quality news coverage. “Gone are the days when networks were unconcerned about losing money on news,” he said.
The newsman gave the audience a glimpse of what working in early television news was like. After Schorr’s first appearance with CBS he was told by Murrow, “Schorr, you’ll do.”
“It was perhaps one of the greatest compliments I have ever got,” Schorr remembered.
Earlier in the day, Schorr shared his thoughts with a group of journalists during a press conference at WSU’s Lewis Alumni Centre on a number of topics including the Middle East Crisis and the state of the media today.
Schorr was the featured speaker during the WSU Murrow Symposium, which honors Murrow, one of the school’s most distinguished alumni. Murrow became director of CBS’s European news operations during World War II and later rose to television fame in 1951 with the news documentary “See It Now.”