NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Morley Safer, a CBS News fixture and the longest serving correspondent for “60 Minutes,” will formally retire this week.
CBS News announced Wednesday that Safer’s career will be celebrated in a special hour-long program right after the regular Sunday edition of “60 Minutes” on CBS2 and CBS stations nationwide. Safer is among the household names – along with the late Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, Ed Bradley, Bob Simon, and Andy Rooney, as well as Steve Kroft, Lesley Stahl and several others – who made “60 Minutes” a nationally celebrated treasure.
“After more than 50 years of broadcasting on CBS News and ’60 Minutes,’ I have decided to retire. 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,” Safer said in a statement. “But most of all I thank the millions of people who have been loyal to our broadcast.”
Safer, 84, was born in Toronto, Canada, and covered major stories around the world for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before he joined CBS News in April 1964. He began his CBS News career as a correspondent in the London bureau, and opened the CBS News Saigon Bureau in 1965.
That year, one of Safer’s CBS News dispatches changed war reporting when it showed Marines torching the homes of villagers in Cam Ne, South Vietnam. The report, which appeared on the “CBS Evening News” with Walter Cronkite, was cited by NYU as one of the best pieces of American journalism in the 20th century.
Safer became CBS News’ London bureau chief in 1967, covering Europe, Africa and the Middle East and returning to Vietnam to cover the war.
Safer joined as a regular correspondent for “60 Minutes” in 1970, with a story about the training of U.S. Sky Marshals. His last 919th and last “60 Minutes” report – a profile of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels – aired in March.
Among the highlights of Safer’s “60 Minutes” career are classics such as “The French Paradox,” (1991) which explored the health benefits of red wine; “Yes, But Is It Art?” (1993), which enraged the contemporary art world in questioning why vacuum cleaners, urinals and other household items were being sold as high-priced art; and a hard-hitting 2011 interview where he asked Ruth Madoff what she knew about her husband Bernard’s Ponzi scheme.
And when citing the finest hour for “60 Minutes,” original executive producer Don Hewitt often pointed to Safer’s 1983 investigative report on Texas prisoner Lenell Geter, who had been wrongly convicted of armed robbery and was serving a life term. In the report, Safer presented new evidence that resulted in Geter’s release.
Safer’s body of work has earned him the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award from Quinnipiac College, as well as special recognition from the Canadian Journalism Foundation. He has also received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards First Prize for Domestic Television for his report about a controversial school, “School for the Homeless,” CBS News noted.
Safer has also won 12 Emmys, three Overseas Press Club Awards, three Peabody Awards, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, two George Polk Memorial Awards and the Radio/Television News Directors Association’s highest honor, the Paul White Award. In 1995, he was also named a Chévalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
The Sunday special will trace Safer’s life and work, and he will speak about many of his most significant achievements. The program will also feature interviews with former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, historian David McCullough, and retired U.S. Brig. Gen. Joe Stringham, who commanded a Green Beret unit that Safer accompanied into battle in Vietnam.
Viewers will also get a look at Safer’s off-camera life – including his poker skills, his artistic talent, and his enthusiasm for driving a sports car at top speeds. And Safer makes a surprising confession: “I really don’t like being on television…. It makes me uneasy. It is not natural to be talking to a piece of machinery. But the money is very good.”
“Morley has had a brilliant career as a reporter and as one of the most significant figures in CBS News history, on our broadcast and in many of our lives,” said Jeff Fager, executive producer of “60 Minutes.” “Morley’s curiosity, his sense of adventure and his superb writing, all made for exceptional work done by a remarkable man. The best of Morley Safer will be on display in our special broadcast this Sunday.”