CBS News is reporting that legendary CBS News correspondent and host of 60 Minutes, Morley Safer, has died at age 84.
He joined CBS News as a correspondent in 1964, and began hosting 60 Minutes in December 1970.
Safer had retired from CBS just last week.
CBS News reports Safer was in declining health when he announced his retirement last week; CBS News broadcast a long-planned special hour to honor the occasion on Sunday May 15 that he watched in his home.
“Morley was one of the most important journalists in any medium, ever,” said CBS Chairman and CEO, Leslie Moonves. “He broke ground in war reporting and made a name that will forever be synonymous with 60 Minutes. He was also a gentleman, a scholar, a great raconteur – all of those things and much more to generations of colleagues, his legion of friends, and his family, to whom all of us at CBS offer our sincerest condolences over the loss of one of CBS’ and journalism’s greatest treasures.”
“This is a very sad day for all of us at 60 Minutes and CBS News. Morley was a fixture, one of our pillars, and an inspiration in many ways. He was a master storyteller, a gentleman and a wonderful friend. We will miss him very much,” said Jeff Fager, the executive producer of 60 Minutes and Safer’s close friend and one-time 60 Minutes producer.
CBS News President David Rhodes said, “Morley Safer helped create the CBS News we know today. No correspondent had more extraordinary range, from war reporting to coverage of every aspect of modern culture. His writing alone defined original reporting. Everyone at CBS News will sorely miss Morley.”
Safer was the longest-serving correspondent in “60 Minutes” history. He joined the CBS program in 1970, just two years after it launched, and worked there ever since, contributing 919 reports over the years. He filed his last report in March.
Not only was “60 Minutes” a ratings hit, but it provided a tutorial about investigative journalism. And it opened executives’ eyes to the fact that, when packaged right, news could even become a profit center.
Safer, a native of Canada, wrote for Canadian newspapers in the 1950s before joining the CBC as a television correspondent. From there, he moved to CBS, first as a London-based correspondent, quickly relocating to Saigon to cover the Vietnam War.
“He was an extraordinary writer and reporter, and a true gentleman,” said CNN anchor and “60 Minutes” contributor Anderson Cooper. “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. His kind shall not pass this way again.”
His work as a war correspondent was legendary.
As recounted in the “Encyclopedia of Television News,” Safer’s “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.’ President Lyndon Johnson was irate over the negative publicity Safer created concerning the Vietnam War and unsuccessfully pressured CBS to censor him.”
Safer wrote a book, “Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam,” in 1990.
After his tours of journalistic duty in Vietnam, China and elsewhere, he returned to London in 1968, this time as bureau chief for CBS. Then he joined “60 Minutes” two years later.
Safer’s insatiable curiosity was a perfect fit for the newsmagazine. He investigated wrongdoing, profiled tycoons and celebrities, and told offbeat tales that were rarely seen elsewhere on TV.
“They were works of art almost,” Fager said in Sunday’s hour-long tribune. “What makes a story a Morley story is his original voice. And by that I mean not just the timbre, but [also] the quality of the storytelling, his writing.”
In a statement last week, when his retirement was announced, Safer said, “It’s been a wonderful run, but the time has come to say goodbye to all of my friends at CBS and the dozens of people who kept me on the air.”