Shaw, who was 82 at the time of his death, worked as CNN’s lead prime-time news anchor for two decades and is best known to viewers as the narrative voice in the inaugural hours of the first Gulf War, the first military conflict to be broadcast in real-time on domestic television.
“Bernie was a CNN original and was our Washington Anchor when we launched on June 1st, 1980,” Chris Licht, CNN’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”
Shaw began his broadcasting career after a stint in the U.S. Navy, during which he asked former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite for advice on how to get into the industry.
His first on-air role was at a radio station in Chicago, where he interviewed civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At one point, Shaw recalled Dr. King said to him: “One day, you’ll make it — just do some good.”
From radio, he moved to a career in television, working as a political correspondent for CBS News during the Watergate Scandal, a seismic national event that the network was among the first to cover. He moved from CBS to ABC a few years later, where he served as the network’s Latin America bureau chief during the Jonestown massacre.
In 1980, television magnate Ted Turner convinced Shaw to take a chance on his fledging news channel, CNN. The network was largely relegated as an afterthought in the television news industry until Shaw and other journalists at CNN provided the only real-time coverage of the opening assault during the Gulf War. His Gulf War coverage was dramatized in the 2002 film “Live from Baghdad.”
“As a journalist, he demanded accuracy and fairness in news coverage,” Tom Johnson, the former chief executive of CNN who worked with Shaw during his tenure there, said in a statement. “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.”
On Wednesday, Shaw’s family said funeral services will be private. A public memorial service is being planned and will be held on a date to be announced.
The CNN network is part of CNN Global, a subsidiary of media conglomerate Warner Bros Discovery.