His Cool-Under-Pressure Iraq Reports Made Him Famous

Bernard Shaw, CNN's first chief anchor, has died at age 82
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 8, 2022 10:00 AM CDT
Bernard Shaw, Legendary CNN Anchor, Dies at 82
CNN anchor Bernard Shaw poses in his office at CNN's Washington bureau on Feb. 15, 2001.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(Newser) – Bernard Shaw, CNN's chief anchor for two decades and a pioneering Black broadcaster best remembered for calmly reporting the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991 as missiles flew around him in Baghdad, has died at 82. He died of pneumonia on Wednesday at a hospital in Washington, according to Tom Johnson, CNN's former chief executive, per the AP. Shaw was at CNN for 20 years and was known for remaining cool under pressure. That was a hallmark of his Baghdad coverage when the US led its invasion of Iraq in 1991 to liberate Kuwait, with CNN airing stunning footage of airstrikes and anti-aircraft fire in the capital city.

"In all of the years of preparing to [be] anchor, one of the things I strove for was to be able to control my emotions in the midst of hell breaking out," Shaw said in a 2014 interview with NPR. "And I personally feel that I passed my stringent test for that in Baghdad." Shaw was a former US Marine who worked as a reporter at CBS and ABC News before taking on the chief anchor role at CNN when the network began in 1980. He moderated a presidential debate in 1988 and covered protests in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989. But his striking on-the-scene work in Baghdad, with correspondents Peter Arnett and John Holliman, was instrumental in putting CNN on the map.

At that time, it was the only cable news network, and broadcast outlets at ABC, CBS, and NBC dominated television news. "Bernard Shaw exemplified excellence in his life," Johnson said. "He will be remembered as a fierce advocate of responsible journalism." Shaw left the business at age 61. He told NPR that despite everything he did in journalism, because of all of the things he missed with his family while working, "I don't think it was worth it." (Read other notable obituaries.)

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