Saturday, December 31, 2005

Muppets, Moppets, and Morley

Morley Safer is SwanBlog's Father Time 2005. Readers may wonder why SwanBlog did not choose one of Morley's very deserving colleagues. Readers may also have been rooting for Nick Coleman to repeat as Father time. Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, and Howard Dean all received honorable mention. It was a tough race, but Morley pulled it out.

To review, Father Time is someone with stale ideas and stale methods. The world has passed them by, and they just don't get it. Morley fits this to a "T."

Morley Safer has never been the top investigative reporter at 60 Minutes. Instead, Morley is the one who often does the second "feel good" segment in the program. Interesting pieces like the one on Eton boarding school in England, or Jim Henson's Muppets come to mind. Morley is the go-to guy for eccentric dreamers and cute children.

When the story of pre-teen college student Adragon DeMello emerged, Morley was on the task. When he reported that Adragon's mother was "something of a mystery," that's all the further it went. But there was a huge story for any real journalist. Read here, here, and here. A responsible news magazine could have covered the obsessive behavior of the father, the bullying of the college officials, and the failure of the mother to protect her son. Morley Safer is not responsible for the abuse, nor should he be expected to predict the future. But the writing was on the wall in this story, if he had chosen to stray from the "feel good" template.

The Boys Choir of Harlem, which was also profiled by Safer, was involved in its own abuse scandal. Again, this happened years after the 60 Minutes report, but Safer is AWOL on the follow-up. When a widely-praised organization has financial trouble and an abuse scandal, that would be a good time for 60 Minutes to pay attention, especially when the news magazine helped promote the organization in the past.

Compare Morley's failure to the courageous reporting of Kurt Eichenwald. While reporting on financial crimes, Eichenwald stumbled upon the world of underage web pornography. He convinced a victimized teenager to stop using drugs, escape the exploitation, and cooperate with law enforcement. Eichenwald was able to do this without compromising any journalistic ethics. This is the future of investigative journalism. Morley Safer is the past, which makes him SwanBlog's Father Time 2005.



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