60 Minutes anchor Morley Safer has died at 84. The Associated Press reported that Safer, a journalist who once said, “There is no such thing as the common man. If there were, there would be no need for journalists,” died today after announcing his retirement earlier this month.
It’s been a wonderful run, and I want to thank the millions of people who have been loyal to our @60Minutes broadcast. Thank you!— Morley Safer (@SaferCBS) May 15, 2016
Safer’s career spanned over five decades, and he reported from almost every corner of the globe. He appeared equally comfortable reporting on North American stories as he was reporting in war-torn areas. He was born in Toronto and began his journalism career as a Canadian reporter, CBC News reports, but it was when he joined 60 Minutes that he ultimately became a television icon.
Safer did 919 stories in 46 years on “60 Minutes,” from his first in 1970 about Sky Marshals to his last in March. https://t.co/f0R9EUgjDy
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 19, 2016
CNN Money noted that Safer was the longest serving 60 Minutes correspondent in history, having joined the show just two years after it started. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper remembered Safer as a truly unique journalist who set a high standard for everyone in the industry.
“From his work during the War in Vietnam to his completely unique and evocative pieces for 60 Minutes, he set the standard for what we all want to be as journalists,” he said. “His kind shall not pass this way again.”
The Encyclopedia of Television News made particular note of Safer’s 1965 reports from Vietnam.
The “1965 film report showing a marine at Cam Ne setting a hut on fire with a cigarette lighter almost single-handedly ushered in the era known as ‘the living room war,’” the Encyclopedia of Television News states of Safer’s work. “President Lyndon Johnson was irate over the negative publicity Safer created concerning the Vietnam War and unsuccessfully pressured CBS to censor him.”
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) May 19, 2016
Safer had a legendary curiosity that made him an ideal reporter, and he went after stories that hit his radar, whether it involved tycoons or wars. 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager spoke fondly of Safer and his original take on the stories he avidly pursued.
“What makes a story a Morley story is his original voice,” Fager said. “And by that I mean not just the timbre, but [also] the quality of the storytelling, his writing.”
By the time Safer announced his retirement May 11, he’d done 919 shows on 60 Minutes. One of his more noted reports, writes the New York Times, was a 1983 investigative report which offered up new evidence that freed Lenell Geter, a black engineer who was ultimately wrongfully convicted of armed robbery in Texas. Because of the national profile Safer had, the story garnered national attention that led to an official reconsideration of the case.
His 2009 interview with the often-reclusive Anna Wintour, who rarely gave interviews, garnered a great deal of attention in the fashion world.
A retrospective on Safer and his career recently aired, entitled “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” and to the surprise of many, Safer admitted he was not a big fan of being on television.
“It makes me uneasy,” Safer said. “It is not natural to be talking to a piece of machinery. But the money is very good.”
During his storied career, Safer won multiple awards, including Emmys, Peabodys, and the George Polk Award for lifetime achievement. He shifted to working part time in recent years for 60 Minutes rather than dominating the co-host chair. Safer occupied the co-host chair for years with colleague and equally legendary reporter Mike Wallace.
Safer is survived by his daughter Sarah Bakal, his wife Jane Fearer, a brother and sister, and three grandchildren.
[Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images]