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Morley Safer (1931–2016)

by Legacy Staff

Remembering Morley Safer, veteran CBS journalist and correspondent for the network’s “60 Minutes” newsmagazine…

Morley Safer, veteran CBS journalist and correspondent for the network’s “60 Minutes” newsmagazine, died May 19, according to CBS. He was 84.

No cause of death was immediately available, and no other details were provided.


Safer was born Nov. 8, 1931, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He started his journalism career as a print reporter for a number of newspapers in Canada and England. He also became a correspondent and producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

He joined CBS News in 1964, based initially in London, England. A year later, he was assigned to open a news bureau in Saigon. He was soon covering the Vietnam War, including a 1965 broadcast in which he accompanied a group of Marines on a mission to a small village, which they evacuated and burned down. Safer became one of the first to report on the darker side of the war that included civilian displacement and casualties.

Later in Vietnam, he and two cameramen were in a helicopter that was shot down. Retired U.S. Brig. Gen. Joe Stringham, who commanded a unit Safer followed in Vietnam, remembered him as fearless: “We looked at eternity right in the face a couple times … and he was as cool as a hog on ice.”

By 1967, Safer was back in London as CBS’ bureau chief. That year, he and a team of fellow journalists became the first from the U.S. to report from Communist China. His “Morley Safer’s Red China Diary” offered a rare glimpse into a largely unknown culture as he visited cities, monuments, and educational institutions. His insight on relations between China and the U.S. included a children’s play he viewed that criticized then-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

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In 1970, Harry Reasoner, one of the original “60 Minutes” correspondents, quit CBS to become the news anchor for another network. Safer was tapped for Reasoner’s “60 Minutes” beat, where he flourished. Among his notable stories for “60 Minutes” were a report on the Gulf of Tonkin incident in Vietnam, for which he won an Emmy Award. He would return to Vietnam in 1989 for “60 Minutes,” interviewing Vietnamese people about their experiences in the war.

But his time with “60 Minutes” took him well beyond the war stories he had focused on as a young correspondent. He presented the award-winning report, “School for the Homeless,” in which he explored a school that attempted to provide education for homeless children. He offered a contentious criticism of modern art in 1993. He reported on Lenell Geter, who had been wrongfully accused of robbery, and his report ultimately helped lead to Geter’s release from wrongful imprisonment. And he interviewed the famous and fascinating, from Katharine Hepburn to Anna Wintour to Betty Ford, who legendarily discussed controversial subjects with the reporter, including drug use and teen sex.

Safer was with “60 Minutes” for much of the show’s history, having joined just two years after its debut. He retired from “60 Minutes” in March of this year, making him the program’s longest-serving correspondent.

Safer won 12 Emmy awards, including an Emmy for lifetime achievement that he received in 1966 when he was only 35. He was honored by a number of other awards and organizations as well, winning a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, three Overseas Press awards, and three George Foster Peabody awards, among others. He was named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

In a post on the show’s official Facebook page, “60 Minutes” said Safer “was a master storyteller, a gentleman and a wonderful friend. We miss him.”

ABC News also paid tribute to Safer in a Facebook post.

“Condolences to our friends at CBS News on the passing of legendary 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer who died today at age 84,” the network wrote.

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