Bernard Shaw, a trailblazing journalist who became the first Black news anchor at CNN, has passed away. He was 82.
Shaw’s passing was confirmed in a statement by CNN's chairman and chief executive Chris Licht. The cause was pneumonia unrelated to COVID-19.
“Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Licht said.
“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,”continued Licht. “Even after he left CNN, Bernie remained a close member of our CNN family providing our viewers with context about historic events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”
Former CNN CEO Tom Johnson said that Shaw will be “remembered as a fierce advocate of responsible journalism.”
“As a journalist, he demanded accuracy and fairness in news coverage. He earned the respect of millions of viewers around the world for his integrity and independence. He resisted forcefully any lowering of ethical news standards or any compromise of solid news coverage. He always could be trusted as a reporter and as an anchor,” added Johnson.
Along with Max Robinson, who became a co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight in 1978, Shaw was one of the first Black anchors to lead coverage in the evening news.
Bernard Shaw was born in Chicago on May 22, 1940. His father Edgar was a railroad worker and house painter, and his mother Camilla was a housekeeper. Shaw fell in love with the news as a child. His father routinely brought home four newspapers a day; CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow was his idol.
After attending the University of Illinois and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Shaw launched his broadcasting career in Chicago, as an anchor and reporter for WNUS. He also worked for Westinghouse Broadcasting. Early in his career, he interviewed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who told him, “One day you’ll make it, just do some good.”
Transitioning to national broadcast news, Shaw became a Washington correspondent for CBS News from 1971 -1977. He moved to ABC News in 1977 to become a Latin American correspondent and bureau chief before becoming the Capitol Hill Senior Correspondent. Eventually, he joined Ted Turner’s fledgling Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980.
At CNN, Shaw was co-anchor of PrimeNews, the network’s flagship evening broadcast. One of his biggest stories was being the first news reporter to cover the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
In 1988, he moderated the presidential debate between former President George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis.
Shaw is also remembered for his coverage of the Gulf War. He managed to deliver the news from Baghdad while intense combat was taking place. As he reported, cruise missiles flew above him and he famously said, "Clearly I've never been there, but this feels like we're in the center of hell."
In an interview in 2014, he spoke about his reputation for being “cool under fire”
“In all the years of preparing to be an anchor, one of the things I strove for was to be able to control my emotions in the midst of hell breaking out,” said Shaw. “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 accuracy, 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.”
In 2020, he moderated the vice-presidential debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman. In 2001, Shaw retired from CNN after 21 years of distinguished service to spend more time with his family. Occasionally, he would make appearances as a guest on his former network. On June 1, 2020, he appeared on an episode of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront to celebrate the 40th anniversary of CNN.
During his stellar career as a news reporter, he received several lifetime achievement awards and was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
Funeral services for Shaw will be closed to family and invited guests only. A public memorial service will be planned at a later time, stated his family.
He is survived by his wife Linda and his two children Amar Edgar and Anil Louise.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bernard Shaw.