Who We Are

The Morley Safer Award, a program of the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin, was created in honor of Morley Safer with the support and active participation of Jane Fearer Safer and Sarah Safer.

Don Carleton
Dr. Don Carleton, Executive Director and J.R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History

Historians do what they do because, like journalists, they want the conversation about American identities, origins, and values to remain rooted in evidence. Contemporary terms such as “fake news” and “lamestream media” demonstrate that we inhabit an era that increasingly undervalues the power of evidence—a concern for both historians and journalists. So it was with great enthusiasm and anticipation that, with the support of Jane and Sarah Safer, the Briscoe Center launched presented the Morley Safer Award for Outstanding Reporting. Celebrating and supporting the integrity, tenacity, and vibrancy of reporters like Morley has become critical to the health of our professions and perhaps even the health of our democracy.

The Morley Safer Award for Outstanding Reporting honored those who embodied Morley’s distinctive strengths: historical perspective, overlooked stories, unexpected insights, complexity, wit, and eloquence. I am grateful to Jane, Sarah, and the entire Morley Safer Award Steering Committee for their energy and guidance in this endeavor. I was truly humbled by the positive response of so many of today’s top journalists who have agreed to serve as jurors.

In many ways, journalists are history’s first responders, which is why the Briscoe Center collects their papers, archives, and photographs. Based at The University of Texas at Austin, the news media history collection began with the papers of the legendary Walter Cronkite, and since then the center has amassed nearly three miles of archival materials across hundreds of separate collections, including the personal papers of reporters, photojournalists, and media producers, as well as over 5,000 newspaper titles and millions of photographs. Together these collections document the people, events, and ideas that have shaped America. Journalists continue to document an evolving America, and the Briscoe Center is proud to help preserve their work for future generations.

For those of you who submitted material, thank you for participating in this important program and for all the work you do to ensure that the public remains both informed and challenged.

About the Executive Director

Don Carleton, Ph.D., founding executive director of The University of Texas at Austin’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, is a scholar of news media and U.S. political history. Carleton served as chief historical advisor to legendary CBS Evenings News anchor Walter Cronkite for his best-selling memoir A Reporter’s Life. Carleton first met Morley Safer while working with Cronkite. Carleton is the author of ten books, including Red Scare and Conversations with Cronkite, for which Safer wrote the foreword. Carleton served as an advisory board member for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Foundation’s Pioneers of Television oral history project from 1996 to 2009 where he conducted video interviews with more than two dozen major figures in the history of broadcast news. Early in his career, Carleton saw the immense value of preserving journalists’ papers for teaching and researching American history. Beginning with Cronkite’s papers, Carleton began acquiring material to form one of the most comprehensive collections of history’s “first drafts” in existence.

The Morley Safer Award Steering Committee was composed of academics and news media professionals as well as the Safer family. They guided the development of the award program.

The Morley Safer Award Panel of Nominators is composed of American and Canadian news media professionals across multiple platforms. Nominators seek broadcast, print, radio and digital news stories that embody Morley Safer’s commitment to original reporting grounded in historical context and informed perspective. Nominators encourage reporters who have produced that kind of work to submit their story or series of stories for consideration.

The Morley Safer Award Jury is comprised of academic and news media professionals. The jury sought stories that embodied Morley Safer’s commitment to original reporting grounded in historical context and informed perspective. Among the criteria, jurors selected stories that reflected Safer’s distinctive strengths as a reporter: an overlooked story or a familiar story presented from a fresh perspective; an illuminating profile of a person or place that offers unexpected insights; in-depth investigation, regardless of risk; approachable storytelling about complex issues; and meticulous and compelling use of language.