As I did a few weeks ago when John Wooden passed away, I'm writing a very personal post today to mark the death of someone very special. Daniel Schorr died last Friday. And if this blog about media and marketing in the digital age seems an odd place to commemorate a 93 year old newsman who started his career on radio in post World War II Europe, just stay with me.
Schorr was a fixture on Walter Cronkite's CBS Evening News when I was a kid, but his news career went much further back. He was one of Edward R. Murrow's "Boys" and came to prominence by conducting a no-holds-barred interview with Nikita Kruschev in 1957. Above all he believed in getting the story and in speaking truth to power. He famously found himself on Richard Nixon's "enemies list," an inclusion he discovered as he was reading the list aloud to his viewers. Over the past dozen years he was a part of my Saturday morning ritual, offering a startlingly cogent and honest weekly news analysis on National Public Radio....which he did virtually until the day he died.
I'm not taking the time here to eulogize Daniel Schorr for his journalism or his morality. Here I want to celebrate his sense of reinvention. He was born before the existence of commercial radio, did some of his earliest reporting in newspapers and covered both foreign and domestic affairs for the premier news organization of its time. When his reporting got a little too honest for CBS he walked away. But rather than fade into the sunset as a man of 60 might have at the time, he reinvented himself by becoming the first Washington presence on fledgling CNN. A half dozen years later, he moved to NPR, which would provide his fourth (radio) and fifth (web) reporting vehicles. Oh, and he sang with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at one point. Above all, he brought a relevant and powerful point of view to the news business, a viewpoint that transcended media forms and technology.
Looking at that life, what strikes me is how many of us are already digging in our heels, convinced that we've got things all figured out. How conservative and self-satisfied we've become in a medium that's less than 20 years old, a medium that was invented when Daniel Schorr was 75.
If you've read this far, maybe you have at least some passing familiarity with the man. If this post helps pass on even a spark of his insatiable energy and curiosity, then I'm well pleased. As I think he'd be as well.
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