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.