Skip to main content

'Fresh Air' Remembers Journalist Daniel Schorr

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr died a week ago at the age of 93. School covered Watergate for CBS and broke many major stories, including a secret U.S. plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. Fresh Air remembers the legendary broadcast journalist with highlights from a 1994 interview.

37:56

Other segments from the episode on July 30, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 30, 2010: Obituary for Daniel Schorr; Review of the film "Life During Wartime"; Review of Los Lobos' album "Tin Can Trust."

Transcript

*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20100730
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
'Fresh Air' Remembers Journalist Daniel Schorr

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.

The death of veteran newsman and NPR analyst Daniel Schorr last Friday
evoked memories for anybody who's followed public life in America. Mine
were from college, when the Watergate scandal was unfolding: looking
forward to the evening news every day to see Schorr's fearless
reporting.

Over his 70-year journalism career, Dan Schorr was tossed out of the
Soviet Union for defying censors, fought to get stories on the air that
made CBS executives uncomfortable and pursued Watergate so doggedly that
he made Richard Nixon's enemies list. He once said he was prouder of
that than his three Emmy Awards.

NPR was privileged to have Schorr as a news analyst for the last 25
years. Terry spoke to him in 1994, when he narrated a documentary about
Watergate on the 20th anniversary of Nixon's resignation.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Do you think that the gravity of Watergate looks any different now in
retrospect than it did to you at the time?

DANIEL SCHORR: Well, I think people have tended to devalue Watergate by
this device of adding the word gate to a lot of other things that have
happened since. And, you know, you look back, and I can remember
something called Koreagate involving some bribery and corruption of
congressmen by South Korea. I can remember something called, at one
time, Billygate, which had to do with President Carter's brother having
represented, without reporting the same, represented Libya in some
things. And finally, Irangate, Iraqgate, BCCgate and all kinds of gates.

And if you add a certain number of gates, in the end, they all seem to
become trivial. But when you go back over Watergate, you realize that
Watergate was the index against all – against which all other scandals
involving the White House have to be measured.

GROSS: Well, what I want to do is talk with you a little bit about what
your life was like covering Watergate for CBS TV, and I thought we could
start with what had to be one of the most dramatic moments of your
journalism career. And I'm thinking of when you reporting live on
Nixon's enemies list, which I believe you'd just been handed.

SCHORR: Yes.

GROSS: What happened when you got to enemy number 17?

SCHORR: Well, exactly. I mean, here was John Dean testifying in June
1973 before Senator Ervin's Watergate Committee, and in his testimony,
he said that at the White House, they had drawn up something called
enemies lists, but he didn't read them, so that we waited until the end
of the session to get the fist copies of what had been submitted in
evidence.

And there we were outside the Senate Caucus Room, waiting for the
hearing to break so that we could get in on the air. I saw we: Sam
Donaldson of ABC and Douglas Kiker – Sam Donaldson, ABC, Douglas Kiker
of NBC and myself standing more or less shoulder to shoulder and talking
into our own cameras, each wanting to be two or three seconds of the
other in revealing whom the Nixon people considered to be enemies.

And so the thing was handed to me live on television. And I said: Here
it is, the first of the enemies list from John Dean. It's headed on
screwing our political enemies, and let me read it to you. I see there
20 numbered names. And I went down the list and came, indeed, as you
suggested to number 17, where is said Daniel Schorr, a real media enemy.

And I kind of gulped and went right down to the next name and down to
the last name, which Mary McGrory, and said now back to you, trying as
hard as I could to pretend that my name belonged to somebody else
because I had suddenly been dragged into the story I was covering, and
that is for me, a real no-no. I mean, I want to stand outside, and they
had pulled me inside.

GROSS: Okay. So you tried to not reveal what you were feeling on the
air, but what is it that you were feeling when you came up to Number 17?

SCHORR: Well, what I was feeling - I mean, it didn't really bother me
that I was on the enemies list, although it didn't occur to me that I
was important enough, in their terms, to get on the enemies list. So
astonished was the word for it, but much more because I had sort of long
life in journalism, from print to radio to television and all, that my
standards were being violated.

I'm supposed to be an observer, the fly on the wall, and suddenly, I had
to say my own name as part of the story that I was covering, and
somehow, the electrifying effect of having to deal with that
professional problem overcame everything else.

GROSS: Were you afraid you'd be taken off the beat?

SCHORR: In fact – well, as a matter of fact, we then said, in packaging
it for the CBS Evening News, we just consulted and said you'd better
assign this part of the story to somebody else. I obviously can't do it.
And that was obviously true.

GROSS: So what were you doing on the list?

SCHORR: Well, it's very hard to say what I was doing on the list. I had
some general idea. Mind you, the list was drawn up in 1971. That's to
say the list was a pre-Watergate list. A lot of things were dug up
during the Watergate investigation from the past.

So the question was: What was it they had against me in 1971? Well, I
had done a couple of stories in 1971 on CBS, which I know ruffled their
feathers a little bit. I had reported, oh, that they had – that
President Nixon had serious reservations about going ahead with the
anti-ballistic missile system, which he had inherited from previous
administrations. And since they were trying to get new appropriations
for it, his reservations didn't ring very well and all. And they got
very angry with me about that.

There was also the fact that President Nixon made a speech in New York
to a Catholic audience, to the Knights of Columbus, promising that he
would find ways of giving federal help to parochial schools, although
the Supreme Court had just come out with a decision saying that it was
unconstitutional.

And in analyzing what the meaning of the speech was, I'd been asked by
CBS to report what was it they were planning to do. And my inquiries
indicated they weren't planning to do anything, and there wasn't
anything they could do.

And so I went on the air after a cut of Nixon getting wonderful applause
from the Knights of Columbus in New York and came right on and said
yeah, that's what he said. But we find no evidence that there is
anything they're going to do or can do, and it is all simply political
rhetoric.

Well, that speech had been written by Pat Buchanan, and he didn't take
very kindly to that. And as we have subsequently discovered from many,
many investigations, he then called President Nixon, who was traveling,
and Nixon had somebody call J. Edgar Hoover, and that was how the FBI
investigation of me started.

But in 1971, I was covering, simply covering whole aspects of what the
Nixon administration was doing, which had to do with civil rights and
had to do with housing and urban problems and all, and when I found that
they were making promises and not keeping them, I had no hesitation in
reporting that. And I guess no president likes it, but no president
before has ever reacted so violently to it.

GROSS: Some people who made it onto that enemies considered it a badge
of honor. Did you?

SCHORR: Oh, yes. Well, a badge of honor - it turned out to be very
useful. First of all, by the time I was aware of the enemies list, I
knew nothing ever was going to happen about it, although I had been
audited, rather curiously, by the IRS.

But yes, there were buttons handed out by some well-meaning people that
read Dean's list, and after a while, I found it was increasing my
invitations to the dinner parties that I liked to go to, and adding to
my lecture fee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: So, you know – as I recall, you know...

GROSS: Boy, did they do you a favor.

SCHORR Yeah, did they do - and some of my colleagues who were not on the
enemies list came to be a little resentful. Dan Rather, who had been
covering the White House then, somehow didn't make it on the enemies
list, and he didn't like that at all.

GROSS: Now, President Nixon also ordered an FBI investigation of you on
the pretext that you were in line for a top federal job. So, of course,
they had to investigate you. How did you find out about this
investigation?

SCHORR: Well, very simply. Now, he – what happened, he had Haldeman have
his assistant Larry Higby call J. Edgar Hoover and simply say the boss,
the president, wants to have some background stuff on a correspondent
named Daniel Schorr.

And apparently, Hoover misunderstood - either really misunderstood or
maybe mischievously chose to misunderstand. The word background, as used
by the FBI, is commonly used for background checks on people who are
going to be nominated to presidential positions, presidential
appointments.

And so there apparently was some misunderstanding, with the result that
the investigation that was ordered by Hoover was basically a wide-open
investigation in which agents called up my employer, called up members
of my family and indeed sent an FBI agent up to CBS to interview me.

And when I said, what is this all about, he said, well, presumably you
know, these are usually done for pre-appointment investigations. And I
said, but nobody's offered me anything.

When the word got back that this had happened, they quickly and rather
precipitously called off the investigation and then began to have a
damage control meeting as to what to do when the story came out. And so
all those wonderful people, Ron Ziegler and Chuck Colson, all got
together, and they said well, the only thing we can do is to say that he
was under consideration for a job, however preposterous that may seem,
and actually indentify a job.

GROSS: What job did they come up with?

SCHORR: It was public relations person for the Council on Environmental
Quality, which was then headed by Russell Train, who a long time later
apologized to me profusely, because he knew that he had been used for
that purpose.

GROSS: You must have been so amused, thinking of the Nixon
administration hiring you for a PR job.

SCHORR: Well, I didn't believe it, of course.

GROSS: Yeah, no. Right.

SCHORR: I never believed it, but they, with a straight face, put out
that story. And then in the end, what happened was that they had to
testify under oath about it before the Senate Watergate committee, and
then again before the House Judiciary Committee, which was holding
impeachment hearings.

And they had to confess that the purpose of the investigation of me was
quite adverse and that they had tried to cover it up, and all of that
was confessed. And in the end, when the Judiciary Committee approved
three articles of impeachment against Nixon, Article 2 was called Abuse
of Power, and under that was listed the FBI investigation of me. So I
became a part of the history of the impeachment of Nixon in that very
odd way. Do you want me to tell you how that story ended many years
later?

GROSS: Sure, yeah. Sure.

SCHORR: Well, the interesting was, in the months before his death, Nixon
and I had a kind of a reconciliation of sorts. I found myself being
invited to small dinners where Nixon was giving briefings on his trips
to the former Soviet Union.

And at one of these, the first of these dinners, I was wondering if he
remembered who I was or why I was being invited, and unable to resist
that temptation, at the end of dinner, I went up to Nixon, and I said:
Mr. Nixon, I'm not sure that you will remember me, but - and he
interrupted me, and he said, oh, sure, Dan Schorr. Damn near hired you
once.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did he believe that?

SCHORR: No, he didn't believe that. That was his little joking way of
trying to make up. No, no, no. It was a quip. He said it with a smile,
and I'm sure he had worked it out in his mind that he was going to say
it to me. But the fact of the matter was he wanted to be forgiven or
forgotten or whatever, and I found it not difficult to do that.

GROSS: Why did you find it not difficult to do that?

SCHORR: Well, for one thing, because I had a certain amount of respect
for his 20-year campaign after resignation to try to rehabilitate
himself. You know, he was a man who had done many comebacks, and I
thought the toughest comeback of all was running for ex-president.

And I had to respect that. And because, you know, he who is without
blemish should be casting stones around. I – my life is – I consider
life too short to have grudges, retain grudges, and furthermore, I find
him interesting.

And he invited me to join a foreign policy institute that he wanted to
plan in Washington, and as far as I'm concerned, anywhere I can go and
talk to people who know something and help me in my work, well, why not?
That was 20-odd years ago, and there's a statute of limitations on all
things.

GROSS: Did you get your Freedom of Information Act files?

SCHORR: Yes, I did. I got my FBI file on a Freedom of Information
application and found out, step-by-step, what had happened. What I also
found out is that the FBI is not a very efficient organization.

The first message in the file had to do with Hoover saying that – Hoover
giving orders for an expedite investigation that the White House wanted
of me, and then added at the end that I was last identified as a CBS
correspondent in Germany, according to Who's Who. And so they were
sending a message to the FBI representative at the American embassy in
Bonn.

This, mind you, was five years after I had come back from Germany and
had been on CBS television almost every night, and the FBI had no way to
look me up except in Who's Who - an outdated Who's Who, at that - which
listed me as correspondent in Germany.

DAVIES: Daniel Schorr, speaking with Terry Gross, recorded in 1994.
We'll hear more of that interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're listening back to Terry's 1994 interview with veteran
newsman and NPR analyst Daniel Schorr, who died last Friday. Schorr won
three Emmy Awards for his coverage of the Watergate scandal.

GROSS: You were working for CBS, covering the story for them. What was
it like being a TV reporter covering Watergate? I mean, this really was
the kind of story that required so much detailed investigative work. It
wasn't a pictures kind of story.

SCHORR: That's a very perceptive question. For a long time, it was a
newspaper story - a Washington Post story, but also the New York Times,
L.A. Times carried elements of it. And it was very, very tough for a
while because I was not keeping up with the newspapers, which were, on
the whole, doing a better job.

Indeed, the first big thing that we did - well, I had a couple of small
scoops of one kind or another, but not really very significant compared
to the developing story. And, in fact, the - probably the greatest
contribution we made in the early days - that is before the '72 election
- was a decision to assemble all the known material, everything that had
been in newspapers elsewhere, and put on a very long, two-part series on
the CBS Evening News of about nine, 10, 11 minutes each.

And we didn't claim that we were original on it, but we did claim to be
telling the country what a lot of Washington Post readers knew, but the
country didn't.

And so that became our contribution, enough of a contribution, in fact,
so that the White House, Chuck Colson, called Bill Paley, the head of
CBS, and threatened him with loss of television stations and so on if he
didn't stop doing this Watergate series.

GROSS: And what was the response of CBS?

SCHORR: Well, alas, the response of Bill Paley was - well, the first
piece had already been on, on a Friday night, and they had billboarded
the next big piece was Monday. And then it didn't go on Monday, and it
went on Tuesday considerably truncated, on the orders - personal orders
of Bill Paley.

GROSS: You must have been pretty angry about that.

SCHORR: Yes, indeed. We were all angry about that. I mean, this was not
just myself. We - all of us, it was a cooperative effort involving
everybody in the Washington bureau, and we were furious, yes - and
particularly furious because CBS had been so good on Watergate up until
that point, and then sort of cracked at a crucial moment.

GROSS: Did you ever worry about self-censorship, that you would not say
things because of the damage that would be done to your reputation from
the White House or the hurt that could come to your network because of a
report?

SCHORR: I wasn't – no, I maybe should have worried a little more about
it. Maybe I would not have been on the enemies list or investigated by
the FBI or called up and bawled out at midnight one night by President
Johnson and once by President Kennedy.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to the fact that these people
don't really like being criticized that way, but I didn't. But my
problems were very rarely with the government, other than with Nixon.
Problems tend to be more within your own organization.

Imagine, on one occasion, when I came back after – Nixon had resigned. I
went on vacation, came back, and then a new story was starting.
Revelations were starting to be made about the CIA, what it had been up
to.

And so I was assigned what I call the son of Watergate correspondent
job, and that was covering the investigations of the CIA. Well, just
imagine, in the course of following the investigations by Congress of
the CIA, there came a story that Paley, Bill Paley, had, in the 1950s,
done a favor for his friends at the CIA, allowing them to use CBS cover
for CIA agents - unthinkable thing to do, and very endangering to CBS
correspondents everywhere. I had the job of getting that on the CBS
Evening News, and I did.

GROSS: How'd you do it?

SCHORR: Well, I told them that the story was in the hands of the New
York Times, and that it was going to be in the papers tomorrow, anyway,
and isn't it better if we break our own story and convince the Cronkite
show, evening news people to do it?

And there it was with a picture of Paley and my reporting, giving his
denial and all the rest of. Later on, when I got into terrible trouble
with CBS, Bill Safire wrote in the New York Times that my real trouble
had been by revealing Paley's secret of his CIA connections, that he had
never forgiven me for that. That may be true.

GROSS: Some people who were considered Nixon's enemies and who found
that their phones were tapped or on the enemies list became very
paranoid, I think, after that, you know, wondering, well, who's out to
get me now? Who's tapping my phone now?

Really, in a lot of ways, that was a very paranoid period because a lot
of people were afraid that they were being followed by the FBI, even if
they weren't.

I'm wondering if you ever felt that there was a kind of permanent
aftereffect on you of knowing that you really were being investigated by
the FBI, and you really were on a president's enemies list.

SCHORR: Well, no. For one thing, it was so uniquely Nixon. And
understand, it was in 1973 that we were finding out what had happened in
1971, which meant that by the time we were finding it out, Nixon was
already on the ropes, and one just simply tied that to that era.

And when, you know, when President Ford took over and said that's the
end of our national nightmare, well, all right, we were all ready to
believe that, that we'd go back to some kind of normalcy, that we've
been through some nightmare. And I guess that was how we felt.

DAVIES: Daniel Schorr, speaking with Terry Gross in 1994. Schorr died
last Friday. You can hear Dan Schorr remembrances from Scott Simon,
Robert Siegel and Susan Stamberg at our website, freshair.npr.org. We'll
hear more of Terry's interview with Dan Schorr in the second half of
today's show.

I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. Today
we're remembering veteran journalist Daniel Schorr, who died last
Friday. Schorr had a long career at CBS and was an analyst at NPR for 25
years.

Terry spoke to him in 1994, when he'd narrated documentary about
Watergate.

GROSS: Daniel Schorr, I'd like to talk with you a little bit about your
early years, your coming of age and your start in journalism. I was
wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the neighborhood you
grew up in.

SCHORR: Well, I grew up in the Bronx, in a semi-poor but respectable
neighborhood. And from a very early age, as far as I can even remember,
journalism was all I wanted to do. And I remember the first money I
earned from journalism. When I was about 13 years old, we lived on the
ground floor of a tenement, and one day I heard a big plop outside the
window and looked out the window, and lying there was somebody who had
fallen or jumped off the roof.

So cool, as a reporter ought to be, I waited for police to arrive, found
out what I could, and called the local newspaper, which paid $5 for news
tips and dictated a story. And that was really, in a sense, a benchmark
for what was to be my career, and that if you can see something which
might affect you and find yourself not affected, except wants to know
what it's all about so you can explain it to other people, I think
that's the basis of a journalistic career. Is removing yourself from
drama so you can describe the drama.

GROSS: Well, you know, exactly. I mean I'm thinking how many - how old
were you when this happened?

SCHORR: Thirteen.

GROSS: Okay. A lot of 13 year olds would've been plagued by nightmares
after seeing somebody fall to their death.

SCHORR: Right.

GROSS: And instead, you’re doing investigative work and calling in the
story.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: Well, right. And that's how I've tried to have it be through
most of my life, although, people sometimes don’t let it be that way. I
got dragged into my Watergate story. When I later on covered the CIA
story, in the end I found myself being threatened with a jail term for
contempt of Congress. When they demanded that I reveal where I got the
report - Congressional report - which the House of Representatives had
voted to suppress...

GROSS: And parenthetically, I'll put in, that had a lot to do with your
falling out with CBS.

SCHORR: And that had a lot to do with my falling out with CBS, which
yes, which did not wish in 1976, when cable television was first
beginning to come on, CBS did not want to be placed in an adversary
position to Congress, which was beginning to pass legislation on that.
So they were horrified to see me as a symbol of a confrontation between
CBS and Congress, and they didn’t like that.

GROSS: Well, back to Dan Schorr the early years. I know your father died
when you were young, and you had to go to work at an early age. What
kind of jobs did you do when you were young?

SCHORR: Well, I delivered newspapers, which maybe was one way of
approaching journalism. I sold magazines, The Saturday Evening Post and
so on, and that kind of thing, earning as much money as I could because
we really needed it. My mother, widowed, was working in the needle
trades in New York. My younger brother had been very ill during most of
his early life, and so money was really Terry - I'm talking about
Depression years. I'm talking 1929 and '30, '31. and in the end I
managed to get into City College, which was free or I would not have
gone to college at all.

GROSS: Were your parents immigrants or were they born...

SCHORR: Yes.

GROSS: So did they speak English well?

SCHORR: No. No. Well, I really don’t remember how well my father spoke
English because I was about five when he died and I have very little
memory of that. My mother spoke with an accent for all of her life,
although, she pretty well educated herself and read a great deal and was
very literate, but that accent remains. I guess maybe this is the time
even to reveal that our name when my parents arrived in New York from
Russia was not even Schorr. It was a different name. My father gave his
name on arrival. The officer said, what's your name? And my father gave
it. The name was Chianamoritz, which in Russian means black sea. And the
immigration officer asked for it a couple of times, so my mother told
me, and unable to write it down, write down Schorr, S-C-H-O-R-R, and
said Mr. Schorr, welcome to America.

GROSS: Did you feel in a way that you had to be a journalist for your
mother? A lot of - what I mean is...

SCHORR: No. No.

GROSS: No? Because what I mean is, you know, a lot of times when a kid
is growing up who was born in America, sometimes that kid has to
translate not only the language but a lot of the culture for the parent.

SCHORR: Well, that's right and journalism didn’t transfer very well into
their culture. When my mother asked me at about 13, 14 what I wanted to
be and I said a journalist, she looked at me very disapprovingly. So you
don’t want something like lawyer or doctor with a degree? Which is what
Jewish kids did. You know, lawyer or a doctor, those were the two
things. And journalists didn’t carry a degree. In fact, I recall my
mother saying to me, journalist, isn't that a little bit like show
business?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: At that time it...

GROSS: Little did she know.

SCHORR: Little did she know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHORR: But I said yes, and she came to - she came to accept it. She
came actually, to be a little proud of it. She came to understand that
journalism was A, respectable and B, that you could make a living at it,
more important.

GROSS: So what did you read when you were young that made you so excited
by the idea of journalism?

SCHORR: I'm not sure I needed to read anything to be excited by the idea
of journalism. It was just somewhere in my blood or in my genes. I guess
we don’t use the scientific words anymore. But, for example, when I went
to Hebrew school I started a newspaper in the Hebrew school, a monthly
paper. When I went to high school, DeWitt Clinton High School, I worked
on the Clinton News. When I went to City College, I worked on the City
College campus. And I don’t ever recall it being even a conscious choice
of any kind. There was never any profession that I rejected. I just was
a journalist.

GROSS: You know, this innate feeling that it was your job to detach
yourself from what was happening and describe it, did that apply to very
emotional things that were happening to you too? Did you find yourself
trying to distance yourself from that and describe it as well?

SCHORR: Well, that's interesting. That's interesting. That maybe gets us
deeper into psyche that I really planned to go. But since you ask, I
wondered myself about it. I wondered myself about this dispassionate,
disinterested view that I have of world and dramatic events and
sometimes tragic events, and wonder whether unable to come to terms with
the death of my father when I was very young, that I was able then to
deal with my father's death by removing myself from it and thus, learned
to remove myself from a great many painful things.

DAVIES: Daniel Schorr, speaking with Terry Gross, recorded in 1994.
We’ll hear more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: We're listening back to Terry's 1994 interview with veteran news
man and NPR analyst Daniel Schorr, who died last Friday.

GROSS: I think it was in 1953 that you were recruited by Edward R.
Murrow for the CBS News team. I mean this is the most celebrated news
team in television history. What was it like for you? Did it feel worthy
of the celebration?

SCHORR: That was interesting too. This is 1953, and I was working in
Western Europe, living in Holland, working in Western Europe as a
stringer for various New York Times, for Time Magazine and for CBS. And
in 1953, February, there was an enormous storm that broke the dikes,
something that hadn't happened in hundreds of years, broke the dikes in
Southern Holland. A large part of the country was devastated by flood.
And I did some fairly dramatic reporting on that for CBS, as well as for
others, and Murrow was impressed.

He sent a cable which was, which read: would you at all consider joining
the staff of CBS with an initial assignment in Washington? And so, then
I went to work for CBS, but I'll tell you, with some reservations. Those
were the early days when a newspaper person thought of radio and
television as not really quite journalism, but somewhere closer to show
business, and I sort of worried a little bit about that. But I thought I
would try it and see if it was possible to do.

I must say that in the first days in Washington, Scotty Reston, a friend
of mine at The New York Times, every once in a while would say to me,
have you had enough? And I'd say no, Scotty. Maybe soon, but not yet, as
though I was still giving it a trial.

Well, trial at CBS lasted for 25 years and, you know, I opened a Moscow
bureau for CBS and came back and joined that group of people that Murrow
would have at the end of the year discussing the affairs of the world.
People revered to me like Alex Kendrick, and Howard Smith and David
Schoenbrun, who maybe I revered less, but respected all them same, and
here was I feeling that I was really in very, very big and important
company.

And I could remember the first time I appeared on that show. I had just
come back from Moscow and appeared on this avid show of an hour and a
half and when we just finished taping it, I was sitting there at this
circle. Murrow sort of walked over and looked at me – this was a very
understated man - walked over and looked at me and said, Schorr, you'll
do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Did that feel really good?

SCHORR: That felt very, very good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: When you were covering the Soviet Union for CBS, you were
eventually thrown out of the country. I think this was in 1957.

SCHORR: Right.

GROSS: And you were denounced by Pravda as a provocateur...

SCHORR: Right.

GROSS: ...and adventurer. And I'm not sure I know what it means to be
denounced as an adventurer.

SCHORR: Well, those are words which have sort of better meaning in
Russian than they have in English. It is sort of a synonym for
provocateur, someone who's trying to stir up trouble. I had indeed made
trouble. They had official censorship then. You had to submit your
scripts, newspaper stories. You'd submit them and wait for them to come
back with sometimes things excised. Radio scripts, you had to sort of
submit and wait until they came back before you could broadcast them,
sometimes missing your circuit, which wasn’t wonderful. And that would
irritate me. And at times when that would happen, I would go in and try
to read my script anyway.

Sometimes I'd read a script where a paragraph had been taken out and I
was particularly fond of that paragraph so I'd read it anyway. And then
I was warned that I was violating censorship and I said well, listen, I
don’t believe in censorship. And so that became a problem for them. And
in the end, they would do things like having me arrested briefly on some
trumped up thing by the KGB as a warning, and then eventually decided
enough was enough, in spite of the fact that I had made history in the
Soviet Union by doing the first ever television interview with a Soviet
leader, Nikita Khrushchev. And so I thought maybe that would give me a
little bit of protection. In the end it didn’t. in the end, when the KGB
was mad at me, not even being identified with Khrushchev helped.

GROSS: Through all your career as a reporter, you tried to keep yourself
out of the story. And as an analyst, I mean, your thoughts are the
story. Your analysis is the story.

SCHORR: But not my emotions.

GROSS: But not your emotions. Right. Right.

SCHORR: And I think that, to sort of anticipate your question, but if I
haven't anticipated it right you'll tell me, I think that news analysis
goes along with objective journalism.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

SCHORR: As long as you say the way you think things are instead of the
way you want things to be. Information has become something altogether
too complex for people to be able to understand without some help from
people with background. So I don’t regard news analysis on NPR or
anywhere as being different from what I consider to be the objective
journalism, which has been my idol.

GROSS: So in other words, you’re saying that you see analysis as being
in part about synthesis, so that to help people make sense of a lot of
facts and put them into some kind of context?

SCHORR: That's right. In CNN age - in the age of CNN, where things are
brought to you live, you can see happening everything that's happening
and have everything there except understanding what it means. And I
think the more live news people get, the more they need help in
understanding it.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

DAVIES: Daniel Schorr, speaking with Terry Gross, recorded in 1994.
Schorr died last Friday. He was 93.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
128846420
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20100730
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
'Life During Wartime': Squirm-Worthy Storytelling

DAVE DAVIES, host:

In his sixth feature film, "Life During Wartime," writer and director
Todd Solondz returns to the New Jersey family of his third film,
"Happiness." The three sisters and their mother have left suburban New
Jersey for Florida and California, where their lives seem even more un-
tethered.

Film critic David Edelstein has this review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: Todd Solondz is a skinny guy with a shock of hair and a
droning voice that's oddly passionate. He writes deadpan comedies, the
bleakest I've seen. His new film, "Life During Wartime," is positively
grueling. For better and worse, you'll never experience anything like
this movie.

It's a sequel to Solondz's 1998 film "Happiness," despite the fact that
all the roles have been cast with different actors who aren't much like
their predecessors. The original focused on three disparate Jewish
sisters living in New Jersey: one a mousy and miserable teacher, one the
author of arty, titillating short stories, and the third a chirpy
housewife and mother. "Happiness" was a broad satire with that ironic
title hanging over it like a mushroom cloud. There were off-screen
suicides, a murder and a subplot about a psychiatrist, the husband of
the housewife, who molests little boys.

The tone of "Life During Wartime" fluctuates even more wildly, and I'm
frankly still wrestling over its mix of humanism and grotesqueness, of
stylized camp and acid realism. The feel is squirmy, malignant, close to
David Lynch. It's largely set in Florida and L.A. and bears no traces of
nature. In Edward Lachman's startling cinematography and Roshelle
Berliner's production design, the world is artificially colored and
over-baked.

In "Happiness," Jane Adams played the youngest of three warped sisters,
Joy, and she was tremulous and sexy. But Joy is now the more damaged
Shirley Henderson, who has a twittery-child voice and a withered
demeanor. Lara Flynn Boyle's sultry Helen is now Ally Sheedy, who's
brittle and high-strung, hopelessly nihilistic, even in the lap of
Hollywood luxury. Cynthia Stevenson's Trish has been elongated into
Allison Janney, who seems even more encased in her bubble of
obliviousness. Over an al fresco lunch, Trish tells Joy she's getting
married again.

(Soundbite of movie, "Life During Wartime")

Ms. SHIRLEY HENDERSON (Actor): (as Joy) But don't you think you're maybe
rushing things a bit? I mean, men are - I don't know. And after Bill...

Ms. ALLISON JANNEY (Actor): (as Trish) Bill is totally different.

Ms. HENDERSON: (as Joy) Yeah.

Ms. JANNEY: (as Trish) No. No. The past is the past. Dead. Gone. Wipe my
hands. Forgotten. It's got nothing to do with me and the kids. We live
in Florida now.

Ms. HENDERSON: (as Joy) I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JANNEY: (as Trish) Now, Harvey on the other hand, well, he's not
very attractive. He's older and he's not even that well off. He's
divorced. Poor thing had a horrible, horrible wife. But he's Jewish.
He's pro-Israel. He did vote for Bush and McCain. But only because of
Israel. He knows these people are complete idiots otherwise. So don't
worry. Basically, he's just a plain, totally family-oriented kind of
guy. A real mensch.

EDELSTEIN: The Israel reference is purposeful. Stars of David, Israeli
flags, images of battle in Gaza show up in the background and on TV
screens. They're not belabored - only glimpsed. But this is the wartime
of Solondz's title, borrowed from a Talking Heads song, but given new
meaning. Unacknowledged by these sisters is a world of bloodshed and
tribal allegiances.

In "Life During Wartime," there are no male figures with power or
stature. But Paul Rubens is shockingly vivid as the ghost of Joy's ex-
boyfriend, who committed suicide over her and now reappears either to
plead for her affection or abuse her. Ciaran Hinds plays Trish's ex-
husband, the pedophile, newly released from prison who's making his way
to see his estranged college-age son.

In the last half-hour, Solondz's focus shifts from the adults to Trish's
two young children, freckle-faced Dylan Riley Snyder and Emma Hinz.
They're the ones who notice the war on TV, the sterility of their
environment, the void in the grown-ups' lives. And they weep over the
loss of moral authority.

Though they're wildly different, there's a thematic connection between
"Life During Wartime" and Steven Spielberg's "Munich," with its
protagonist who begs at the end for someone to restore his link to the
world of the ancestors, because this world is rotting from within. The
children's weeping is the one thread of hope - faint but insistent - in
this all-enveloping bad dream, the feel-bad movie of the year. I didn't
enjoy this movie. I mean, how can you? But my own faith is rekindled by
Todd Solondz, who's found a forum for the chaotic, contradictory
impulses that we live with during wartime.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

There are several scenes from "Life During Wartime" at our website:
freshair.npr.org.

Coming up, Ken Tucker on the new album from Los Lobos. This is FRESH
AIR.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
128851573
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20100730
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Fans 'Can Trust' New Los Lobos Album

DAVE DAVIES, host:

"Tin Can Trust" is the name of the first collection of new original
songs from Los Lobos in four years. The East L.A. band has been active
since the '70s, and over the course of their career, they've done
everything from opening for Bob Dylan, U2 and the Grateful Dead, to
recording a tribute album to Walt Disney movie music.

Rock critic Ken Tucker says the group's new album can stand with their
best work.

(Soundbite of song, "Burn it Down")

LOS LOBOS (Rock Band): (Singing) I didn't say a word. It's only destiny
I've heard. The time had come for me to run away. Don't even turn around
is what they say.

KEN TUCKER: Los Lobos are masters of creating moods, of summoning up a
setting and putting you in the center of it. From their major-label
debut "Will the Wolf Survive" to the new "Tin Can Trust," the band has
always sung about people who take their pleasures where they can find
them and who lead rich, imaginative lives. There's an entire world that
opens up in the beautifully languid stroll described in one of the
band's finest songs ever, "On Main Street."

(Soundbite of song, "On Main Street")

LOS LOBOS: (Singing) (unintelligible) walking down the boulevard feeling
the sun on my face. Watching Maggie (unintelligible) running all over
the place. Got a red light. Got a green light, no matter which way I go.
Down Main Street, down easy street is where I feel like I'm home.

TUCKER: One of the most impressive things about this album is the way
Los Lobos shifts between a hard-boiled realism and a free, open
lyricism. I'm not entirely sure what the lyrics of "Jupiter or the Moon"
mean, but I know that the gorgeously eerie soundscape the song creates,
with its bluesy ease and lunar jazz coolness, is a world I want to live
in for a while.

(Soundbite of song, "Jupiter or the Moon")

LOS LOBOS: (Singing) If I could turn night into day, you know I would.
If I could make soil into gold, you know I would. Look for one up in the
sky. Where have you gone, gone so soon as Jupiter over the moon?

TUCKER: To be sure, there's a certain fatalism to some of Los Lobos'
music. This album features two songs in which the narrators use the
phrase burning down to describe a scorched-earth approach to dispatching
a troubled past, in hopes of building a better future. Yet, I can't
think of an example over 30 years of music-making in which this band has
resorted to cheap cynicism or knee-jerk nihilism. Whatever melancholy or
hopelessness that can creep into a song, it's always tempered by precise
detailing, whether it's a guitar line that lifts despair into a thing of
beauty or a lyric suggesting that any state of mind is more complex than
mere depression.

(Soundbite of song, "All My Bridges Burning")

LOS LOBOS: (Singing) When you were young, taking time to believe, if
only to survive what you got to believe. That when we, too, survive,
survive in this world and this crazy life, got to give it a whirl. All
my bridges burning, almost burning down. All my bridges burning, burning
to the ground. Burning down. Burning down.

TUCKER: Los Lobos saved their most audacious song for the end of this
album. Called "27 Spanishes," songwriters David Hidalgo and Louie Perez
describe it as an attempt to tell quote, "the entire tale of the Spanish
conquest of Mexico, blow by blow." I'm staggered to hear that they come
awfully close to achieving just that, encased in a quiet, lean, mean
blues epic.

(Soundbite of "27 Spanishes")

LOS LOBOS: (Singing) Twenty-seven Spanishes arriving from the sea,
blades of steel flashing, cutting down the eagle's(ph) tree. Came riding
in on mountains, on red and silver feet, into the city of a serpent, so
he could build a dream.

TUCKER: There isn't a false note on "Tin Can Trust." It moves with the
assurance of men who have the confidence to follow the path a stray
guitar or keyboard riff may take them, pursuing the implications of a
simple, but tricky phrase like tin can trust. They let the listener fill
in the blanks about what guitars, keyboards, accordion, fiddle and some
blunt, yet poetic phrases have to say about the lives they see around
them, and the lives we all live.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He
reviewed "Tin Can Trust," the new album from Los Lobos. You can listen
to every track from the album on nprmusic.org.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
128869792

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

52:30

A more moderate Taliban? An Afghan journalist says nothing has changed

Afghan British journalist Najibullah Quraishi has had trouble sleeping for more than two hours a stretch ever since the U.S. withdrew troops from Afghanistan in August and the Taliban came back into power. Quraishi grew up in Afghanistan under Soviet and Taliban rule, and began reporting on the Taliban before the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks and the onset of the U.S. Afghan war. He's currently in Kabul reporting for his upcoming PBS Frontline documentary, Taliban Takeover, (airing Oct. 12) which details life in Afghanistan now.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue