MURRELL COLUMN: Did Morley Safer ever report on sports (scandals)?

Published 10:20 pm Thursday, May 19, 2016

To this day, I can only make two links to sports and “60 Minutes”. OK, three, one of them being “60 Minutes Sports” on Showtime.

The other two in mind are “60 Minutes” immediately following the NFL late afternoon game on CBS and Roger Clemens’ interview with Mike Wallace in 2008.

As any journalist will tell you, “60 Minutes” is the original standard for investigative and revealing journalism by which our careers can be judged against. “20/20” and “Dateline NBC,” although great in their own right, are mere competitors in comparison.

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And Morley Safer is as synonymous with “60 Minutes,” my grandmother’s brand of Sunday night television, as advertisements for arthritis pain medicine and bran flakes.

While I struggle to link Safer, the longtime co-anchor who passed away Thursday at 84, to sports, he belongs in this column as a major player in journalism. I wasn’t around for Edward R. Murrow, Howard K. Smith or Walter Cronkite at the anchor desk, but Safer told stories in ways we often are cautioned against by so-called civic leaders on more local levels. (The real leaders let us turn over every stone.)

As I consider myself an aggressive journalist, I look at my work and Safer’s side-by-side, and much more is desired in my career. No self-respecting reporter would say otherwise.

But where I can relate to Safer is that neither our lives nor our work are enclosed within one genre of our field. No common consumer of news realizes this otherwise.

Morley could go from reporting on war to uncovering arts and entertainment. Me? My interest in contemporary and big band jazz gives me a much perfect balance in a career littered with interest in sports and all its hard news.

Safer exceled at telling stories that ignited change in our society, the stories I don’t get to tell enough of. To use sports terminology, he was a game-changer who, in his own right, was made for Sundays.

By the time he turned 35, CBS reported, Safer won an award usually given for lifetime achievement. That was two years before “60 Minutes” first aired in 1968.

I’m days away from 36, and I’ll be happy just to win the next categorical award from the Press Club of Southeast Texas. (I do have four first-place honors from statewide and company contests I’ll refrain from bragging about.)

Do you know how excellent a journalist is? When an executive producer or an editor tells a young reporter to look at a big name’s work and follow his example, without giving much technical direction.

It’s not a lack of skill on the manager’s part. Safer’s reporting broke rules and angered governments, so there isn’t much technical direction one can give on writing like him. His work frees us to become quality journalists.

Anchors and even sportscasters can be storytellers. That’s where Jim McKay earned his fame.

Any well-meaning reporter can be an investigator. Morley Safer was an exposer … of truth to change our world.

It’s just what America needed … just 60 minutes per week.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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