At age 16 I'm going to see what's it like to be a cub reporter," says Daniel Schorr, the former CBS newsman who two years ago incurred the wrath of Congress and some of his colleagues by clumsily leaking a House intelligence committee report to the press.
Now, after publication of a book on the subject and a stint on the lecture circuit, Schorr is joining the working press again as a once-a-week syndicated Washington columnist beginning in late March.
"I'm very scared," says Schorr, whose competitive (some say abrasive) style as a television reporter belied any self-doubts, "because it's been two years since I've really done any Washington reporting. However arrogant I've been in the past. I have a very modest feeling about needing re-education to catch up with the flow of events here.
"And I've got to get off being a cause celebre, I've got to convince people to stop snickering when I call them, I must overcome too much exposure as a story and get back to being a person working on a story."
Toward that end, Schorr swears that during the first six months of column-writing he won't mention CBS, CIA or Watergate - three subjects that put him in the news in 1975. When he acted as a conduit for the then-secret House report on intelligence activities, Schorr at first pinned the blame on a fellow correspondent, Lesley Stahl. He lost more friends at CBS when word reached north that he had told a Duke University audience that top CBS newsmen, including Walter Cronkite, toned down their reporting about Richard Nixon at the behest of management.
Today antipathy toward Schorr still exists at CBS, though he says "there's been a lot more healing here and there than is known" since his departure.
"The important thing now is that we're out of the foxhole," he says. "I'd like to be reconciled as far as possible with some of the people who were on the other various sides: the Nixon people, CIA people and CBS people."
Schorr, father of two young sons (he first married at age 50 and occasionally Woodley Park neighbors compliment him on his "lovely grandchildren"), recently turned down a request to be interviewed by John Dean, who hosts a radio show. Recalling the miserable Watergate days he spent staking out Dean, Schorr told him if he'd wait outside his house for a few days, he'd talk with him. And when Charles Colson asked him to play the role of a television newsman in the movie "Born Again," Schorr declined because he felt uncomfortable blurring reality and the silver screen.
Footnote: No love is lost between Schorr and Congress; appearing before the House ethics committee, he refused to name the source of his copy of the Pike committee's report, and he notes that "if they were half as good on House ethics as they were on mine, it would be a well-named committee." Over 61,000 copies of Clearing the Air have been shipped to bookstores - "If you get into a hell of a lot of trouble in this country for whatever reason," he says, "a certain number of books will be sold just by that fact."