Legendary journalist Bernard Shaw, the first ever anchor for CNN, died on Sept. 7 at a Washington, DC hospital of pneumonia unrelated to covid-19, his family announced. Shaw was 82.
When CNN launched on June 1, 1980, Shaw was tapped to be CNN’s first chief anchor at a time when other networks had white males as their lead anchors. After more than 20 years with the news network, Shaw retired from on February 28, 2001.
“CNN’s beloved anchor and colleague, Bernard Shaw, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years, from anchoring coverage of presidential elections to his iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991. Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family, providing our viewers with context about historical events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”
Shaw covered some of biggest stories of that time, such as the student revolt in Tiananmen Square in China in May 1989, the First Gulf war life from Baghdad in 1991, and the 2000 presidential election.
Shaw had a reputation for remaining calm under pressure, including his coverage of the First Gulf War.
Shaw and fellow reporters John Holliman and Peter Arnett made TV history by broadcasting the night of the first attack in Baghdad in real-time, CNN reported.
The group of journalists became known as the “Boys of Baghdad.”
“The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated. We’re seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky,” Shaw said, reporting from a Baghdad hotel as bombs went off.
“One of the things I strove for,” he said, “was to be able to control my emotions in the midst of hell breaking out. And I personally feel that I passed my stringent test for that in Baghdad. The more intense the news story I cover, the cooler I want to be. The more I ratchet down my emotions, even the tone of voice, because people are depending on you for accurate, dispassionate descriptions of what’s happening. And it would be a disservice to the consumers of news — be they readers, listeners or viewers — for me to become emotional and to get carried away.”
Shaw was also known as straight-shooter and for conducting tough interviews. In 1988, he became the first African-American journalist to moderate a presidential debate.
Born May 22, 1940, in Chicago, Shaw went on to join the Marine Corps. He was stationed in Hawaii and it was during this time he sought out TV news legend Walter Cronkite for advice about how to become a journalist. Shaw launched his career start as a radio reporter in Chicago. It was here he interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who told him, “One day you’ll make it, just do some good,” Shaw recalled.
He started his television career as a political reporter for CBS. Next, he moved on to ABC where he was Latin America correspondent and bureau chief. There, he and his team captured the only aerial pictures of the massacre at Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978.
“Bernie was a pioneer, a consummate professional, and one of the most respected journalists in the country. As a masterful mentor whose calm and disciplined demeanor provided the perfect tone for historic coverage that would define his twenty-plus year career at CNN — his legacy will live on in the work and minds of so many journalists around the world,” Turner wrote. “The world has lost a hero for democracy and truth.”
Shaw recognized with many honors, including the Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcasting and was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 1999.
Photo: CNN anchorman Bernard Shaw appears on set at the network’s Atlanta headquarters on Nov. 10, 2000. (AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser, File)