David R. Henderson  

Morley Safer, RIP

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CBS Sixty Minutes reporter Morley Safer died today. He was one of my favorites. He had that smile of doubt when he was hearing someone he interviewed tell him what he thought was a spin. He was also a fellow Canadian who became an American, while retaining Canadian citizenship.

Indeed the Canadian part relates to one of my favorite stories about him, assuming, as I think is justified in this case, that Wikipedia tells it right.

Safer had reported on, and shown, U.S. soldiers in Vietnam lighting people's huts on fire during the Vietnam war. He was justifiably shocked by this. President Lyndon Johnson was shocked too, apparently not because the soldiers were lighting the huts on fire but because Safer reported it.

Here's the relevant segment from Wikipedia:

Safer's report on this event was broadcast on CBS News on August 5, 1965, and was among the first reports to paint a bleak picture of the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Baines Johnson reacted to this report angrily, calling CBS's president and accusing Safer and his colleagues of having "shat [DRH comment: LBJ was good on the past tense] on the American flag." Certain that Safer was a communist, Johnson also ordered a security check; upon being told that Safer "wasn't a communist, just a Canadian", he responded: "Well, I knew he wasn't an American."

My wife and I had just watched, and enjoyed, the special one-hour Sixty Minutes segment on him last Sunday.

Here's an excerpt from the CNN obit:

"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."

I think Cooper's last statement is probably right. It's worth thinking about why. Is it the incentives? If so, what incentives have changed. I'm not sure about the answer.

Comments and Sharing

CATEGORIES: Obituaries

COMMENTS (6 to date)
Hans writes:

He made sixty minutes tick!

May the Lord grant him peace.

Mark Bahner writes:

He's being interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN now.

Good interview.

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

" His kind shall not pass this way again."

Why? Read Martin Gurri.

RPLong writes:

I agree with Schweitzer that Martin Gurri has some excellent insight into this. I would also add to the small chorus of voices who attribute the shift in the media's tone to the public's shift away from long-form information to short-form information. I don't know very many people who read Dostoevsky, for example, but all of those I know are older than I am.

I honestly don't know which method of learning provides better thinking at the end of the day, but I think it's safe to say that consuming mostly long, complex, and in-depth media produces a different disposition than consuming mostly brief, high-level media.

Todd Kreider writes:

My favorite journalist - the Colombo of journalism.

Nathan W writes:

Media companies want privileged access to information. Those who report on police abuse, military abuse, intelligence abuse, etc., are liable to find authorities in those arms of the state refusing interviews, etc., and being the very last to get information, finding themselves always relying on 3rd party sources.

Also, all major corporate media now have people high up in defense on their boards. Not sure how exactly that relates, but it seems potentially relevant.

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