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Legendary '60 Minutes' correspondent leaves legacy in Seattle

CBS is reporting that longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer has died. He was 84.

Safer retired last week after more than half a century at CBS.

The Canadian-born Safer, a 12-time Emmy winner, started at "60 Minutes" in 1970. Safer reported on a wide variety of topics over his career, including war, social injustice and art. Safer filed more than 900 reports for the CBS news magazine, according to CNN.

One was a 1974 story on Seattle's Medic One program.

It is grainy footage from a "60 Minutes" story more than four-decades old.  In 1974, Morley Safer came to Seattle and reported, if you’re going to have a heart attack, “have it in Seattle.”

Safer rode in the back of a Medic One ambulance and focused on Seattle’s cutting edge approach to saving lives.  For 42 years, the six-minute story has had a profound impact on the way the world approaches heart attacks.

"Saying that Seattle is the best place to have a heart attack really set the bar and set the challenge and we've worked hard over the years to maintain that." said Capt. Jonathan Larsen of Medic One.

Medic One has come a long way since 1974 and their survival rate has actually improved. "It was about one out of five back then and now it's over 50 percent which is the highest rate in the world," said Dr. Mickey Eisenberg of King County EMS.

In 1974, 100,000 people, one-fifth of the city’s population, had taken CPR.  Today, those numbers have increased and saved lives. After the 60-minutes report, Dr. Eisenberg started the "Resuscitation Academy.” Twice a year, people come to the Emerald City from all over the world to learn Seattle’s groundbreaking approach toward handling heart attacks. "We decided to, in effect, take that knowledge, package it together in a course and offer it to people.  It's all for free," said Eisenberg.

The lifesaving equipment has changed, but Seattle's approach to treating heart attacks has remained the same, focusing on time, teamwork and a tenacity to save lives. “It's that attitude that we'll do anything that we can, on any call, to get the best possible outcome for the citizen, Seattle figured some of this stuff out early.  We were lucky. Everything came together in Seattle.  We were lucky.  We worked hard.  We didn't have a bunch of people telling us it couldn't be done,” said Larsen.

It may have been a story at the beginning Morley Safer's legendary news career, but it has left a lasting, life-saving impression.  "That put Seattle on the map in terms of cardiac resuscitation. There's no question about it.  It set the bar high and it made other communities pay attention,” said Dr. Eisenberg.

Here are details from his CBS obituary:

Safer's piece from the Vietnamese hamlet of Cam Ne in August of 1965 showing U.S. Marines burning the villagers' thatched huts was cited by New York University as one of the 20th century's best pieces of American journalism. Some believe this report freed other journalists to stop censoring themselves and tell the raw truth about war. The controversial report on the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" earned Safer a George Polk award and angered President Lyndon Johnson so much, he reportedly called CBS President Frank Stanton and said, "Your boys shat on the American flag yesterday." Some Marines are said to have threatened Safer, but others thanked him for exposing a cruel tactic. Safer said that the pentagon treated him with contempt for the rest of his life.
He spent three tours (1964-'66) as head of the CBS Saigon bureau. His helicopter was shot down in a 1965 battle, after which Safer continued to report under fire. In 1990, he penned a memoir of his Vietnam experience, Flashbacks: On Returning to Vietnam (Random House), in which he goes back to reminisce and to interview the enemy's veterans.
When he joined Mike Wallace at the beginning of 60 Minutes' third season, they toiled to put stories on the air for a program that dodged cancellation each season. But their work was immediately recognized with an Emmy for Safer's 1971 investigation of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that began America's war in Vietnam. The two pressed on for five years, moving the broadcast from the bottom fourth to the middle of the rankings. Then in August 1975, with a new Sunday evening timeslot, Safer put 60 MINUTES on the national stage. Interviewing Betty Ford, the first lady shocked many Americans by saying she would think it normal if her 18-year-old daughter were having sex. The historic sit-down also included frank talk about pot and abortion.
By 1978, the broadcast was in Nielsen's Top 10. Safer's eloquent, sometimes quirky features balanced out the program's "gotcha" interviews and investigations, perfecting the news magazine's recipe. It became the number-one program for the 1979-'80 season - a crown it won five times. 60 Minutes remained in the top 10 for an unprecedented 23 straight seasons.
It was another Safer story that would become one of the program's most honored and important. "Lenell Geter's in Jail," about a young black man serving life for armed robbery in Texas, overturned Geter's conviction 10 days after the December 1983 segment exposed a sloppy rush to injustice. Safer and 60 Minutes were honored with the industry's highest accolades: the Peabody, George Polk and du Pont-Columbia University awards. 60 Minutes founder Don Hewitt often pointed to the story as the program's finest work.