Bernard Shaw, Iconic CNN Anchor, Dies at 82

Bernard Shaw, who was CNN’s main anchor for 20 years and distinguished its coverage of such landmark events as the Gulf War, died Wednesday, the Warner Bros.-backed company said. He was 82 years old and had contracted pneumonia unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Bernie was a CNN original and was our anchor in Washington when we launched on June 1St, 1980. He was our lead anchor for the next twenty years from our coverage of the presidential election to our iconic coverage of the First Gulf War live from Baghdad in 1991,” said Chris Licht, CNN president and CEO. in a statement. “Even after leaving CNN, Bernie has remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context for historic events just last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”

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Shaw had already enjoyed a distinguished career before arriving at CNN. He worked for CBS News as a Washington correspondent between 1971 and 1977 and covered both Latin America and Capitol Hill for ABC News in the latter part of that decade. But his time at CNN helped usher in a new era in the business, one in which a cable startup could make as much sense to news junkies as established newspapers and broadcasters.

At CNN, Shaw co-anchored “PrimeNews,” the network’s evening show, and among the first major events he helped cover was the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. CNN’s newscast was ahead from the major networks by about four minutes, according to a report by reporter Lisa Napoli in her book “Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN and the Birth of 24-Hour News.” The information was so vague and the details so troubling that Shaw neglected to cut off his microphone before addressing the CNN audience.

“We don’t know exactly what happened. We don’t know the order,” Shaw said, according to Napoli’s account. “We can report that shots were fired as President Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel following the address we carried live here on CNN. The president did not appear to be injured, according to United Press International. Shaw would later be joined on air by former CBS News reporter Daniel Schorr, and his work helped cement the impression that the fledgling news outlet was meant to be a bigger part of the business, despite startup status.

Shaw’s tenure at CNN is also remembered for his on-the-ground reporting during the Gulf War in 1991. Working with colleagues Peter Arnett and John Holliman, Shaw gave dispatches from the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, refuge where he could as cruise missiles were heard flying around him.

“Throughout the years I’ve been preparing to be an anchor, one of the things I’ve strived for is being able to control my emotions in the midst of all hell breaking loose. And I personally feel like I passed my stern test of that in Baghdad,” Shaw told NPR in 2014. “The more intense the news that I’m covering, the cooler I want to be. The more I lower my emotions, even my tone of voice, because people depend on you for accurate, dispassionate descriptions of what’s going on. And it would be bad for the consumers of the news – whether they’re readers, listeners or viewers – for me to get emotional and get carried away.”

Shaw began his career in Chicago as an anchor and reporter for WNUS. He would also work for Westinghouse Broadcasting.

He completed his CNN career by anchoring the long-running program “Inside Politics” between 1992 and 2001, when he retired from CNN. She still made occasional appearances on the network, once in 2005 when Judy Woodruff anchored her last show there, and another as recently as 2020, when she appeared on Erin Burnett’s early-night program OutFront, where she talked about her 40th anniversary of CNN circulation.

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