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Schorr: great, principled journalist
by Jake Highton
Aug 07, 2010 | 613 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Perhaps all you need to know about Daniel Schorr is that he was a CBS protégé of Edward  R. Murrow, still a symbol of excellence in the often shabby world of broadcast journalism.

Schorr, who recently died, reaped many honors during his 70-year journalistic career. But nothing honored him more than a statement he made to the House Ethics Committee in 1976.

Even though threatened with a contempt citation, Schorr refused to reveal how he had obtained a copy of a scathing report on CIA direction of assassinations abroad.

“I consider it a matter of professional conscience as well as a constitutional right not to assist you in discovering the source,” Schorr told the committee. “This also means that I shall not respond to direct questioning about confidential sources.

“In some 40 years of practicing journalism I have never yielded to a demand for disclosure of a source that I had promised to protect,” he added.

Schorr, calling it a visceral matter, told the committee: “We all build our lives around certain principles without which our careers lose their meaning.”

He added: “To betray a confidential source would mean to dry up many future sources for many future reporters…But beyond all that, to betray a source would be betray myself, my career and my life.”

The committee voted 6-5 against a contempt citation and for the First Amendment.

One other proud Schorr achievement: he made President Nixon’s enemies list.

Puritanism wins again

American puritanism continues to astound even in the 21st century.

The school district of Provincetown, Mass., on Cape Cod acted sensibly about sex among teenagers: it recently declared that its nurses can give condoms to students requesting them.

But the welkin rang with protests. Angry parents called the decision disgusting, an open invitation to school-kid sex, a socialist program.

The reality: America records the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that half of American teenagers have had sex at least once.

Nevertheless, too many Americans refuse to admit the truth about sex: a powerful drive that precious few can suppress. Condoms — and safe sex — acknowledge that reality.

Sophomoric question

An e-mail acquaintance sends a copy of a sermon he recently delivered at the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas.

The guy, a journalism professor, is 52-years-old and has a super intellect. But is still asking sophomoric questions like: “Why is any of us here?”

The answer is so simple he should have figured it out long ago.

We are here to get as much pleasure out of life as we can: good spouses, good dinners, good wine, good sex, good comrades, good talk, good friends, good books, good art, good movies and good music.

If that sounds too hedonistic for some people, remember that the “agenda for life” needs one important addition: doing good for others. Teachers come to mind.

The Texas professor rights himself with this sermon comment: “We are insignificant beings floating in insignificance in a universe vast beyond human comprehension.”

That statement reminds you of Emerson who remarked on looking up at the heavens: “Why so hot little man?”

New Yorker

One of the signs of old age is when you say things like “New Yorker cartoons aren’t as funny as they used to be.” Still, it is a turnoff when cartoonists have animals talking or cats wearing Superman capes.

Nevertheless, the New Yorker still prints some wonderful cartoons. Like the one recently where a lawyer is talking to his client on a jail phone and says: “We’ve received many letters from your constituents urging you to stay right where you are.”

‘Perfect game’ marred

 The late, unlamented World Cup exposed international soccer (football) as a far from perfect game. It was marred by:

• Incredibly bad refereeing.

• Agonized flopping to draw penalties.

• Blatant cheating by winning with illegal handballs.

All these “sins” make it obvious that the International Federation of Football (FIFA) needs to adopt video replay. Then it will have no excuse to disallow obvious goals, no excuse to allow goals when a team is clearly offsides and no excuse not to overrule disgraceful referee decisions.

The one great blessing of soccer: no timeouts and no commercials during play. In America games are marred by wearyingly excessive TV commercials.

Nonfight of century

Pacquiao vs. Mayweather  is destined to go down in history as the greatest fight never to have taken place.

Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. Contact him at
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