Friday, July 23, 2010

Daniel Schorr: 1916 - 2010

The last of the giants from the Golden Age of Journalism has passed away. Daniel Schorr, the legendary newsman whose work spanned more than half a century, has died at the age of 93.

As a young man, Schorr worked as an Army intelligence officer in Europe during World War II. His time in the service proved useful to him when he began working as a news correspondent in Europe after the war was over, working for such respected periodicals as the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times. Eventually, he went to work at CBS, being mentored by the great Edward R. Murrow himself.

Schorr covered such events as the Marshall Plan, the creation of NATO, the construction of the Berlin Wall, LBJ's Great Society program, illegal activities of the CIA, and the Watergate Scandal. In the last years of his life, Schorr remained active in journalism, becoming a commentator for NPR. In this capacity, he made full use of his vast knowledge and experience to put into perspective the great events taking place in America and the world in the early 21st Century.

Schorr, like all journalists worthy of the name, never allowed the powers-that-be dictate to him what he would report. He was expelled from the USSR by the Soviet authorities for defying their censorship, and his coverage of the Watergate scandal earned him a place on President Nixon's list of enemies. Schorr, fittingly, considered these to be badges of honor he was proud to wear.

Our day and age is sadly lacking journalists with the caliber of Daniel Schorr. During the years of the Bush Administration, we saw legions of journalists quietly accept made-up claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, making little or no effort to investigate the claims for themselves. And in the 2008 election, we saw legions of journalists effectively cheering on the Obama candidacy, making a mockery of journalistic ethics. The most important stories are all but ignored, and once-respected periodicals and media outlets focus on meaningless stories about entertainment celebrities.

Even in political coverage, true journalism has been replaced almost completely by a sick combination of entertainment and partisan editorializing. Whether we're talking about liberals like Keith Olbermann, conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, or simple idiots like Glenn Beck, these shows have higher numbers of viewers, but are virtually devoid of meaningful content, completely ignore critical issues, and are so partisan as to be indistinguishable from political party broadcasts. They do absolutely nothing to advance political discourse in this country, and achieve nothing but increasing partisanship and anger in this country, making it much more difficult to address the true threats to our republic.

Daniel Schorr was the last of his kind. We may not see his like again. Considering the sorry state of journalism in modern America, this is a fact to be much lamented. He will be truly missed.

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