NEW YORK, Sept. 10 (JTA) — One of America’s best-known broadcast journalists revealed this week that he was denied a job at The New York Times half a century ago because he is Jewish.
"My dream of becoming a New York Times correspondent was dashed because I was a Jew,” Daniel Schorr told a luncheon audience gathered here Tuesday to mark the 80th anniversary of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the international Jewish news service.
Schorr got his start in journalism in 1934 by working as a stringer for a JTA subsidiary, the Jewish Daily Bulletin. He later became a staff writer and assistant editor for JTA, where he worked until 1941. Schorr went on to become part of Edward R. Murrow’s legendary news team at CBS and in the 1980s served as CNN’s senior correspondent in Washington. He now serves as National Public Radio’s senior news analyst and as a commentator for the Public Broadcasting Service. But back in the 1950s, Schorr’s dream was to become a foreign correspondent for The New York Times.
The problem was that in the aftermath of World War II, the Times was closing foreign bureaus and not hiring new correspondents. After a three-day-trial on the Times city desk, Schorr said, he was told to go to Europe and wait. Maybe something would turn up. He chose Holland and there received his "lucky break.’"
In February 1953, a disastrous flood burst open the dikes, submerging a third of the country under water. Schorr was there, providing front-page coverage for the Times day after day. His reports impressed the Times editors, but still no job offer came through. He began filing reports for Murrow’s CBS evening radio news broadcast and eventually received a permanent job offer there.
Before accepting the position, Schorr said, he checked once more to see if the Times would consider hiring him as a correspondent. He received a cable advising him to accept the position at CBS.
Two years later, at the end of 1955, Schorr was attending a holiday party in New York, where he bumped into Emmanuel Freedman, then the Times’ foreign editor. He complimented Schorr on his work for CBS and invited him to dinner. Also at the dinner was Theodore Bernstein, then assistant managing editor for the Times. Both spoke of their regret at not being able to hire Schorr, who by this time had made a name for himself as a CBS correspondent.
When Schorr asked what had prevented them from hiring him, they revealed that the Times’ top editor, Turner Catledge, had issued a directive freezing the hiring of Jews as correspondents. The reason cited, Schorr recounted, was "because we might be involved soon in a Middle East war, and we need to have flexibility.”
Schorr’s account came as a surprise to the luncheon audience, many of whom think of the Times as a paper with considerable Jewish influence. One only has to look at the op-ed page to see bylines such as A.M. Rosenthal, Thomas Friedman, William Safire and Frank Rich. But back then, Schorr said, the paper owned by the Jewish Sulzberger family was very self-conscious about having a too-Jewish image.
Schorr also spoke of how the Times and other mainstream news outlets ignored many of the early accounts about Holocaust atrocities that were being reported by JTA and its subsidiary, the Overseas News Agency. He said JTA, which today serves over 100 publications worldwide, continues to play an important role in reporting and analyzing news of particular concern to the Jewish people. "If JTA had not been there," he said, "it would have had to be created."