CNN’s Bernard Shaw reflects on four decades of reporting

By Sarah Lechner
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
March 12, 2001

Less than one week after stepping away from CNN’s anchor desk, network frontman Bernard Shaw said he sacrificed too much time with his family for the four decades of news reporting.

“But that was how the Shaw family made an income,” he said of his tenure that included coverage of national stories such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Persian Gulf War and Election Night 2000.

Shaw spoke about his career as a journalist to a packed ballroom of students and professionals at the National Press Club last Wednesday night. He said that many network anchors such as himself, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings remain in their positions for a long time because of their love of reporting.

“If you love it, it remains compelling,” he said.

Shaw has been an anchorman for CNN since the network’s inception in 1980. Before his tenure at CNN, he worked as a reporter for Westinghouse Broadcasting Company in Chicago and later was stationed in Washington as a White House correspondent. He also served as a reporter in CBS’s Washington bureau.

Shaw announced his decision to lessen his role at CNN in November, shortly after Election Night 2000.

“I deeply regret reporting to the world,” the erroneous calls, he said of the night.

He said the mistakes were made because the method of evaluation that Voter News Service — the service that five networks and the Associated Press use to get exit poll data — was flawed. But, he said, it does not mean that the networks, including CNN, should not be held accountable for the mistake.

He called the incorrect calls a “horrific journalistic mistake,” but defended using one source for exit poll data, saying VNS was fine until there was a mistake, emphasizing that from a business standpoint, the networks were saving a lot of money.

Shaw said that CNN is setting up a separate polling source for future election coverage.

After being pressed by moderator Marvin Kalb to reveal his political affiliation, he said that he did not vote in the election because he does not want to be influenced as a journalist.

“As a reporter, I do not believe I have freedom of speech,” he said.

Shaw said he hopes to spend much of his retirement time with his wife Linda and their two children. Shaw signed a contract with the publishing company Random House 10 years ago and said it is time to honor his writing commitment. He will continue to work with the network.

The forum was co-sponsored by The George Washington University, the National Press Club and Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

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