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Bernard Shaw, CNN’s first chief anchor, dies aged 82

Bernard Shaw, who was CNN’s chief anchor and stayed with the network for two decades, has died aged 82.

His family told the network he died on Wednesday (7 September) of pneumonia at a hospital in Washington. Mr Shaw’s family specified that the pneumonia was unrelated to Covid-19.

Mr Shaw was CNN’s first chief anchor when the network began broadcasting in 1980. He remained with the channel until his retirement in 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 1 June 1980,” CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht said in a statement released by the network on Thursday.

“He was our lead anchor for the next 20 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 historic events as recently as last year. The condolences of all of us at CNN go out to his wife Linda and his children.”

A public memorial service will take place at a later date, after a private service this Sunday. Through a statement, the family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Bernard Shaw Scholarship Fund at the University of Chicago.

Mr Shaw was born on 22 May 1940 in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a railroad employee and house painter, and his mother was a housekeeper, according to CNN. Mr Shaw served in the US Marine Corps from 1959 to 1963. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1966 with a degree in history.

His assignments included the Persian Gulf War, the student revolt in Tiananmen Square, the death of Princess Diana, and the 2000 US presidential election. Prior to joining CNN, he worked at CBS and at ABC.

“In all of the years of preparing to being anchor, one of the things I strove for was to be able to control my emotions in the midst of hell breaking out,” Mr Shaw told NPR in 2014. “And I personally feel that I passed my stringent test for that in Baghdad.”

Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief and now a professor at George Washington University, told The Associated Press that Mr Shaw “put CNN on the map.”

“Bernard Shaw exemplified excellence in his life,” former CNN president Tom Johnson told The AP. “He will be remembered as a fierce advocate of responsible journalism.”

During his conversation with NPR in 2014, Mr Shaw recalled telling news anchor Sam Donaldson: “looking back over my career when I think about all the things that I did, but all the things that I missed within my family because I was out doing – I don’t think it was worth it.”

His jaw dropped,” Mr Shaw added, “and he just went apoplectic, and, how can you say that? How can you? I said, honestly I’m telling you that after 41 years in this business, given what I missed, it was not worth it.”

Asked what advice he would give to future generations of journalists, Mr Shaw said: “ I would urge anyone – pursue your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you what you cannot do. If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

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