When it comes to television news reporters there is a special mantle on which I place Bernie Shaw. The famed newsman died today at the age of 82.
If you are my age and enjoy politics the memory of Bernie Shaw and his remarkable work on CNN will easily come to mind. One of the shows he worked on, and in time would be joined by the equally professional Judy Woodruff, was Inside Politics. With deep analysis and pointed interviews, the show was designed to not only report on the current events with politicians but look ahead and try to better determine what might next be occurring in the world of politics. I absolutely loved the show and recorded it each day so I could watch it later in the evening.
I have always felt the question asked by Shaw in a 1988 presidential debate of Democratic nominee Mike Dukakis was not only perfectly aimed but one that allowed the nation insight into the candidate. The death penalty was an issue, and while it might be termed startling to have it asked of a candidate in the way Shaw did, the deer in the headlight’s response from the nominee did aid the nation in making an electoral decision. The question was whether Dukakis would support the death penalty should his wife, Kitty, be raped and murdered. Dukakis responded with “No, I don’t, Bernard, and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime.” While I supported Dukakis and opposed the death penalty it was very clear from his response the election was over.
Over the years I commented on Shaw and in 1988 noted as the race for Wisconsin’s First Assembly seat grew more intense, and the GOP made it historic for that time by throwing over $50,000 into the Republican’s campaign, I started to stress out. I had started to work in Representative Lary Swoboda’s office the year prior as his Administrative Assistant, By the morning before the election, I was ill to my stomach and spent the day at my home in Madison. While drinking tea and eating soft foods I watched Bernie Shaw on CNN and knew the polls would be dreadful for the Dukakis campaign. But on Election Night I was back in the First Assembly District where we secured a comfortable victory.
In 2006, I noted how I felt when Bernie Shaw had left CNN years prior as if I had lost a friend. The well-respected reporter, along with his co-anchor Judy Woodruff, made politics and campaigns pop and sizzle with insight and energy on the first all-news cable network. Their program “Inside Politics” was truly must-see TV. CNN has changed over the years because of downsizing and altering its news focus, and as a result, the caliber of its political reporting has suffered.
I am hoping that in newsrooms tonight in America there is the memory of the work Bernie Shaw provided our nation, and then use those recollections as a template on how news should be gathered and reported.