Morley Safer, 1931-2016

Image from CBS via AP.

Morley Safer was my favorite “60 Minutes” correspondent.

My memories of “60 Minutes” are mixed up with different eras — childhood, when the show would be on while my family ate dinner; my 20s, when I sought out its profiles of Paul Simon or Dave Barry — but caricatures of the correspondents live on in my head. Mike Wallace was scary. Harry Reasoner was dull. Ed Bradley was like a jazz musician — fascinating, but a little distant for my taste — and Dan Rather was, well, Dan Rather. I liked Lesley Stahl, had little fondness for Diane Sawyer.

But Safer — let’s call him Morley, it’s such a perfectly friendly name — was the best. He could be tough like Wallace, but there was a drollery about him, a sense of humor, that made him more approachable.

And that voice: a little English (he was actually Canadian, but close enough), seemingly seasoned with a touch of whiskey, capable of a wink or a shrug, conveying intelligence. The closest these days may be Charlie Brooker, and the fact that Brooker’s a satirist and not a journalist says volumes. (He also has sharper elbows than Safer, as a satirist would.)

Safer could do hard — see his famous Vietnam piece, below — and he could do “soft,” though Morley’s soft was never gauze-wrapped pap dipped in violins. There was no need for bullshit. The profile was enough.

Safer died Thursday. He was 84. “60 Minutes” knew he was ailing; the show devoted its most recent episode entirely to the correspondent. You could do worse than watch.

RIP, Morley.


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