Morley Safer has passed away

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Many people who turned to twitter this morning were greeted with the hashtag #MorleySafer trending. It was the first thought of everyone what that meant: the legendary CBS newsman with a 47-year career on the television news magazine show, 60 Minutes, had passed away. He was 84. CBS News used Twitter to inform the millions of people who have grown up watching the veteran newsman for the past 50-plus years.

Morley Safer was born in Toronto, Canada, November 8, 1931, the son of a stay-at-home mom and upholsterer. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario, Safer embarked on a journalism career that took him to Europe and then as a correspondent for CBS News, to Vietnam, when he started covering the war in 1965.

He made a name for himself — and got on President Lyndon Johnson’s bad side — when he reported on Marines burning a village that had no Viet Cong in it. He told the American audience, “This is what the war in Vietnam is all about. The Vietcong were long gone. The action wounded three women, killed one baby, wounded one Marine and netted four old men as prisoners. Today’s operation is the frustration of Vietnam in miniature. To a Vietnamese peasant whose home means a lifetime of backbreaking labor, it will take more than presidential promises to convince him that we are on his side.”

President Johnson had him investigated to see if he was a Communist. When told Safer was Canadian, Johnson is reported to have said, “I knew he wasn’t American.”

After reporting from Vietnam Safer became the London correspondent for CBS, reporting on the war in the Middle East, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the “troubles” in Northern Ireland and the civil war in Nigeria, where he was expelled for reporting on relief supplies that were intended for Biafra being stolen.

In 1967 Safer went under cover in China to report on the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong. Western journalists were banned at the time.

Safer joined 60 Minutes in December 1970 and reported on heroes, crooks, the evil, the blessed; politicians, writers, filmmakers, and every day people affected by the decisions of the powerful of society.

His reporting in 1983 helped free a man wrongly convicted of armed robbery in Texas.

He traveled around the world for his news stories, reporting on Swiss banks, croquet, dictators, British customs, tasting food and analyzing art. In recent years he pissed off the art world; in 1993 he called the abstract art of the time, “worthless junk” and in 2012 called a Miami Beach art show “an upscale flea market.”

Safer retired last week, with CBS News giving the entire 60 Minutes to Safer, highlighting too few of the 900-plus segments he helped produce and air.

Over 30 years ago many journalists and newsrooms began making the transition to computers and desktop publishing. Not Morley Safer who was still pounding out his scripts on a manual typewriter — even gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson used an electric typewriter.

Morley Safer was a one-of-a-kind journalist, at ease in the jungles of Vietnam and the art houses of Manhattan. He said he didn’t like being on television, “… but the money is very good.”

Well, only if the journalism is very good and with Safer it was rarely anything less.

Morley Safer: November 8, 1931 — May 19, 2016.

Top photo: Morley Safer at the 64th Annual Peabody Awards in 2005. (Wikipedia, Albert Ferreira/