SMPA opens with gala ceremony

The School of Media and Public Affairs officially opened its new building to the world Wednesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a GW co-sponsored Kalb Report with Bernard Shaw at the National Press Club.

The opening ceremony, featuring appearances by Ken Sparks, director of the Federal City Council, D.C. city council member Jack Evans and GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, honored a facility Trachtenberg described as having “machines so advanced that NBC must be envious.”

Later that night recently-retired Shaw reflected on his career that spanned almost four decades, from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the Florida election crisis, addressing an audience peppered with GW students and staff.

“In retrospect, it was not worth it,” Shaw said of his career. “But that was how the Shaw family made an income.”

Moderator Marvin Kalb, executive director of the D.C. office of Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, hosted his 20th forum since 1991, grilling the legendary CNN anchor on presidential election coverage and media company mergers.

Kalb called Shaw “CNN’s principal face and voice,” and commended the Shaw family, which made many sacrifices to make his living possible, “mainly driven by the requirements of the competitive news atmosphere.”

Shaw encouraged young people to “never forget your basic self and the values that have propelled you.”

“Believe in yourself, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and know that you’re going to have a damn tough time getting to the top if indeed you get to the top,” he said. “With all of your talent you’re taking a number and standing in line.”

Discussing the 2000 presidential election, Shaw said CNN erred in relying on one source, the Voter News Service, for election results.

“In this instance, that was a source of data from which information was drawn and calls were made,” he said, adding that CNN is considering an independent source of polling data.

Kalb asked Shaw how the merger of America Online and CNN parent company Time-Warner would affect the network’s news coverage.

“CNN is a very important part of AOL/Time-Warner,” Shaw said, adding that managerial decisions do not affect news coverage. “They all know CNN is the crown jewel in the operation.”

Kalb also pressed Shaw about his “outer limits” of reporting, and how he handles national security issues.

“As a journalist I feel I do not have the right to report anything that would endanger the lives of men in uniform,” Shaw said.

He said weighs the public’s need to know information in question, his confidence in his sources and pressure from competing news agencies to decide whether to report on a sensitive issue.

“I’d have to hear the reasons (not to report) put forth before honoring their request,” Shaw said, adding that he would be more less easily swayed because “the people’s right to know is hanging in the balance.

“No journalist worth his or her salt wants to be taken by anybody,” he said.

At the end of the discussion, Shaw entertained questions from the audience, including 10 GW students.

One student asked Shaw how to deal with race in a news career.

“News is not white, news is not black,” he said. “White is not right, black is not wrong.”

Prior to the event, GW professor and Vice President of Communications Mike Freedman announced the grand opening of the MPA building, which will draw many big-name speakers to GW Thursday.

“(Events like the Kalb Report) show you the relationship GW has with journalistic Washington and with the Press Club,” he said.

At the ribbon-cutting, Sparks, an alumnus of GW and former Foggy Bottom resident, said he was happy to see the building officially open.

Evans presented a resolution from D.C.’s city council stating that the new building will “take GW to a level never before reached,” another step to making GW a “world-class University.”

-Danielle Sheer contributed to this report.

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