In Black America; Bernard Shaw
Actually, I'm not really sure if I don't even tried optimal or quite clear, so that I can notice anything in the feeling. In Black America, reflections of the Black experience in American society. This is the CNN Evening News, live to all time zones across the country around the world, with Don Farmer and Chris Curle and Bernard Shaw in Washington. Here in Washington, the details of Jerry Levin's Liberation Remain unclear and has Chris and Tony indicated the question remains whether he escaped or whether he was released and we continue to emphasize that for obvious reasons. Every weekday evening and eight in ten Eastern time, Bernard Shaw presents the top news stories of the day from Washington DC to viewers of cable news networks, prime news.
As Washington Bureau anchor, Bernard Shaw belongs to a very select group. He is the only Black journalist on a major television network anchoring the Evening News. Bernard Shaw is a former CBS News senior Capitol Hill correspondent and Miami Bureau Chief for ABC News. Mr. Shaw has covered the White House, National Urban Affairs, the Energy Crisis, Watergate, and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I'm John Hanson and this week our focus is on cable news networks anchor Bernard Shaw in Black America. It was a challenge to be a part of that group and to compete with those people. And I never viewed myself as, and still though, I regard myself as a reporter who happens to be Black rather than a Black reporter. There were no problems. I encountered no problems because of color. There were times when my color did play a role in perception or in people's reactions to me. Let me be more specific.
From 1966 to 1971, he was a reporter for the Western House Broadcasting Company's Group W based in Chicago. In 1968, Bernard Shaw covered the Johnson administration and the president's decision not to seek reelection as Group W's White House correspondent. That same year, he reported on the aftermath of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. From October of 1971 to March of 1974, Bernard Shaw worked as a reporter for CBS News out of its Washington Bureau. As a correspondent for CBS News, he conducted an exclusive interview with former U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell at the Heith of the Watergate scandal. In April of 1977, Bernard Shaw joined the ABC News team as his Miami Bureau Chief and Latin American correspondent. In June of 1980, Bernard Shaw resigned his position as ABC News Senior Capitol Hill correspondent to join cable news network at its inception.
I spoke with Mr. Shaw in his office at CNN Washington Bureau. It was all intentional. I wanted to do what I'm doing ever since I was 13. Growing up in Chicago, Edward R. Murrow, CBS fame, was my idol. He was the kind of journalist, the kind of interviewer, the kind of anchor man I want it to be. And I felt that rather than major in journalism, I felt it was more important to get a perspective on this planet and how mankind has evolved and I felt that history would be a good major for that. And I knew that I could write and wanted to learn how to write better. I was in accelerated reading classes when I was going through the Chicago Public School System in my hometown and taking special writing courses, that kind of thing. So I always had the encouragement and the indication that if I pressed onward, I would develop further.
So that's why I majored in history rather than journalism, assuming that the writing and getting a lot of jobs and sweeping out radio stations and working at newspapers and what have you, that would come later as it did. Did you work in journalism? Why attending the University of Illinois? Why is pursuing degree in history? I was somewhat, yes, I was somewhat of a freak. I was working full-time at an all-news radio station, WNUS. Full-time? Full-time in carrying what we call the full boat, 14 hours in the quarter system at the University of Illinois. I almost had a nervous breakdown a couple of times, but the station was owned by Atex and Gordon McClendon. And I would leave the campus at two in the afternoon and I would work from four o'clock until midnight. And my off days were irregular. I think it was something like Tuesday or Wednesday, which is a worst time to be off. But that was my career. That's what I wanted. The opportunity was there and I just felt that I should make the sacrifices.
I was working full-time at WNUS and then I went to the Marshall Field TV station in Chicago, WFLD, Channel 32. And in 1968, I went to work for, well after 32, I went to work for Westinghouse Broadcasting in Chicago, WIND, which at that time was the best radio news department in the whole city. And as you and your listeners know, Chicago is a highly competitive news town whose history goes back to the days of, well, even Hemingway used to be a report in Chicago. Ben Hecht, people like that, Sandy Van Okre, all of them have come out of the Chicago shop. I worked there in Westinghouse in 1968, promoted me and transferred me here to Washington. I covered the White House for a year. The last year, the Johnson administration, which met a lot of commutes to Texas to Austin and to San Antonio, especially like Austin, came to New Austin because of the President going home on the weekends.
In 1971, CBS Network hired me here in Washington. I went to work for CBS and worked here in Washington as Network Corp. Spotted for about six years and after that, I'd always wanted to cover Latin America. It's my favorite place in this world outside the United States. And ABC News said, well, if you come to work for us, you can go down and be Bureau Chief in Cover Latin America, which I did for three years. And I came back here in 1979 and after doing some duty in the Iranian hostage crisis over in Tehran. I left ABC because something called cable news network was starting up and they asked me if I was interested in becoming the principal Washington anchor for CNN. And because a dear friend of mine, George Watson, who was an ABC Bureau Chief and is now ABC Washington Bureau Chief, had come over here temporarily to start up this bureau because George was here. I came on board and Dan Shore, whom I used to work with at CBS.
He was here and I felt that was good enough for reason to join CNN. And that's why we're sitting here in my office talking. You mentioned that you covered the White House. What was it like being a Black reporter covering the White House for America? You could be a green reporter covering the White House and it is an extraordinary experience. Lyndon Johnson was a character, as you know, and everyone knows. He was finishing out his term. He would not run again. But he still was a man who could draw a lot of interesting people around him and create news as he did the last year. It was very interesting covering Lyndon Johnson. I think the best reporters per beat are at the White House. Regardless of whether they're wire service reporters, newspaper reporters, magazine reporters, radio reporters, or television reporters, the best, the cream of the crop are there. And it was a challenge to be a part of that group and to compete with those people.
And I never viewed myself as and still don't. I regard myself as a reporter who happens to be Black rather than a Black reporter. There were no problems. I encountered no problems because of color. There were times, though, when my color did play a role in perception or in people's reactions to me. Let me be more specific. Lyndon Johnson, the last six months of his administration, was the guest of many people who wanted to say thank you, Mr. President. We know you're leaving office. And there were a series of farewell parties that became very boring here in Washington because that's all we did was go to parties to watch the first couple being affected by their friends. But one Friday night, he was invited up to New York, the plows hotel.
This beautiful, sumptuous ballroom, and he was being feted by all kinds of people, example, Lady Esther. She was there with all her diamonds and this woman had at least, we estimated about $400,000 worth of gems on her neck and her ears and what have you. She had brought from one of her mansions these silver earns and there were 50 earns in that ballroom with each color long stem roses. I'm giving you this kind of detail for a reason. People in the audience included people like Whitney Young of the urban league and all kinds of leaders. Duke Ellington was there. A lot of authors were there. Ralph Allison was there, people from the arts, people from industry, the Fortune 500 board chairman were there. But I was a pool reporter and a pool is the group of reporters, a smaller group, numbering not more than 10 people who physically go where the president is and they report on what the president does to the larger group of White House correspondents.
I can't have 150 people going everywhere. Well, I was a pool reporter and it was clear that this night had a very strong civil rights theme. And the secret service had brought Mrs. Johnson and the president to the entrance that they were going to take them through to get into the ballroom. As I say, there was a strong civil rights theme that night and the president and Mrs. Johnson came up and they were held by the secret service until they were getting ready to go through this curtain which had not been parted yet. And I was standing there with my pencil and notepad and the president reached out and touched me on the hand and said it's good to see again. And I know as a human being that he did that one because I was black and because of the emphasis that night.
Just a small thing. Another thing was before Johnson left office, I had occasion to be in Richard Nixon's White House, not before he left office but when President Nixon was in, I was at the White House again on a temporary basis. And I remember we were summoned to the Oval Office and when you go into the Oval Office, you try to get as close as you can to hear what the man is going to say because a lot of times when this people are speaking in low voices in the Oval Office can't hear. So I skirted into the office and immediately went around the side of the desk and I came up to the far corner, left hand corner of the desk so that I was closest to the president. And the other reporters were, you know, elbowing and trying to get in closer. Well, the man just dropped a bombshell on us. He announced an appointment to the Supreme Court. And I think it was Judge Clement Haynesworth described him as a lawyer's lawyer and a judge's judge, that kind of thing.
Well, as we all know, Mr. Haynesworth did not make it and there was a lot of controversy. But we had had indications that Haynesworth might be a candidate for the highest court in the land and there were some pieces that had been done in the press. And Mr. Haynesworth's background was not very conducive to what Black Americans would consider a jurist who would have their best interests in heart. And as the president was praising his nominee, Mr. Haynesworth, professionally, my right hand was copying down every word, but my mind was thinking, Clement Haynesworth, Supreme Court justice. And what I found very interesting, I was the only Black person in the Opal Office, and I was standing as close to Richard Nixon as you and I are sitting. And the president never once looked at me, never once.
It's the kind of thing that you certainly couldn't document in court. We human beings own food one another, right? It was a body English kind of thing. And I know what was in the president's mind. I know why he did not look at me. I could not prove it. I just know it instinctively. You've covered a lot of national events, the civil rights movement, Dr. King's assassination, quite sure the March on Washington, has the climate for Black America in your opinion changed that greatly. I think it depends on the size of your pocketbook. I think it depends on your job, if you have a job. If you are educated, if you have a profession, I should think that you have continued to do very well. But if you are not educated, if you are a Black teenager who hasn't had a job in a long time, I don't see how you can say the things have improved.
It depends on the size of your pocketbook. And whether indeed you have a pocketbook. Being the major anchor for seeing in here in Washington is difficult for you to decide what should be the major story. It's the White House automatically the leading story in which you would have on a particular day or the other interests here in Washington that you may want America to know about. It's not difficult. Washington is a news capital of the world. It has a life all its own. And news stories, the leads of newscasts are decided by the importance or the weight of the news. It's importance. It could come out of the White House. The lead could be the latest consumer price index figures. The lead could be a state department reaction. Just a one paragraph written statement put out in response to something that happened in the Kremlin. The lead could be demonstrators, farmers demonstrated in Pennsylvania Avenue and being busted up by a policeman.
It all depends on the weight of the story within the context of other stories that are happening, not only here in Washington, but across the country and around the world. And it is not a unilateral decision by me. I'm just one of many persons here at CNN. I did not make the final decision. And generally, whatever story is decided, it gets a number one ranking or a number two or a number three ranking because of its importance within the context of the news flow. What type of effect did Watergate have on you reporting it and also seeing what it was doing to this country? That was the most frightening period I have known since being in Washington and I've been here since 1968. Covering the Watergate story was totally exhausting. It was not a nine to five story example. One afternoon on a Saturday, I was assigned to cover the Reverend Carl McIntyre who was having a big pro-America demonstration and a pro-Nixon demonstration on the grounds of the Washington Monument.
And this points up to other people. I'd like to say this to people who are interested in becoming reporters. I remember what Walter Cronkite told me when I was in a Marine Corps back in 1961 and I got together and we were talking. He said you should learn about any and everything and you should always be alert. Okay, now we go back to the Washington Monument. I was covering this rally and the producers and CBS Radio Network had told me that they wanted a spot as we call it. They wanted a spot or a report from me for two o'clock. So I covered McIntyre for about an hour and a half and I had enough and I started walking back towards the White House. I was going to file a report from the White House. That was the nearest relay point that we had physically. And as I was walking back thinking about how I was going to write the lead, I got close to the White House drive, the South Drive going around the back of the White House.
And I noticed this car limousine and I knew that the president Richard Nixon had all of the White House correspondents out in the Rose Garden for some kind of ceremony. That was the focus. That was what the White House wanted the press corps in the middle of Watergate to concentrate on the White House press corps. So as I was walking towards the White House Southwest Gate to get in and write and file my report on McIntyre's demonstration, I noticed this car go by. The only thing I saw was the back of a guy's head in the back seat with a ball spot. And I thought, that's John Mitchell, the Attorney General. What is he doing going to the White House? And I started running. I got past the guards showing them my secret service pass and what have you. White House press pass. And they don't like you to run on the grounds of the White House. But I had to make certain that that indeed was John Mitchell.
Because at that point in the Watergate story, there was a major controversy about Mitchell's involvement, whether he knew about the plumbers and certain things. Well, in effect, my senses told me that while Richard Nixon has the White House press corps in the Rose Garden, this guy, the Attorney General, is sneaking into the White House for an important meeting about Watergate. These were my theories in my mind. So I ran up the walk and I said, well Bernie, you're not going to run 100 yards up there and look into this limousine. I will have gotten out and gone into the building. So I stopped. I planted my seat on the sidewalk, my feet on the sidewalk, and I waited to see who was getting out of this car. Indeed, the man got out, the receding hairline, the pipe in the mouth. It was John Mitchell and he went through a side door. I got into our booth at the White House, where Dan Rather and Bob Purepoint normally were, and they were out in the White House Rose Garden. And I called the assignment desk and I said, I will do my report on Carol McIntyre, but guess who just sneaked into the White House?
John Mitchell, pandemonium broke out in our bureau. We said, forget about Carol McIntyre. We assigned a courier to watch Mitchell's limousine. We had to find out where he was going. Well, the courier followed this limousine once it left the White House to national airport. Meanwhile, we asked Ron Ziegler. We went to him privately and said, is the Attorney General in Washington? Is the Attorney General here in the White House? Would not confirm or deny that the Attorney General is at the White House? The courier told us that he was getting on a shuttle to New York. Daniel Shore and I, at Race to the National Airport, got on the same plane. We got on the plane with a crew. And once we were airborne, we walked up and said, we don't want to annoy you or disrupt your flight to New York, but we would like to talk to you.
And he promised that he would talk to us in New York at LaGuardia. And we got off the plane between Shore and I, asking him about 15 questions. That's all he would take. It was clear to us that there was a major meeting at the White House. And he said that when his time came to testify, he would testify. And he would be cooperating with the Watergate prosecutor. I didn't mean to take so much time. But my point was that as a reporter, the slightest thing can be the tip of an iceberg of a major story. And by seeing this ball spot in the back of the head, by knowing who the Washington heavies are, which is your responsibility. There was nothing profound that I did. I was merely doing my job. CBS, at that time, we were able to get a major story, which led our show that night. Wires were moving willedons and the newspapers picked it up. But it was a major development at that point during the Watergate story. An indication of how exhausting it was. From walking across the south side of the White House, I ended up in New York that night and came back down on the shuttle with Roger Mudd, who was doing the show that night.
I think I got to bet around one in the morning, one Sunday morning. But that's an indication of how involved the Watergate story was. Having worked at three major networks, are the news operations that different from network to network? No, and a lot of your listeners will say, well, he's right. How many of us had occasion to look at one network's news program and switch the channel and see the same story? Well, people cover the news generally the same way. Aside from what we call enterprise reporting where you dig and dig, and only your listeners in Austin or elsewhere, people listening to the Longhorn Network know about a certain story. But generally, there's no mystery about covering the news. You know that if the president's going to have a news conference, you're going to cover it, and you're going to report the major things out of it.
If Mayor Washington in Chicago was having one of his typical fights with Alderman Edward Verdoli, and suddenly they're going to have a major summit, you know that's going to be a major story that evening on the evening news. You do the obvious, you know. South Africa is a major issue here in Washington at the present time. I was seeing the uncovering that and the real true issues surrounding South Africa and the reason for the protests actually being known to the American public. We're covering the story as best we can. We thought it was very important that our camera be outside the embassy when Stevie Wonder was arrested. We felt it was important to report that along with other people who have been arrested, members of Congress, what have you. The story is not just, of course, outside the embassy grounds.
We've had the ambassador and on our extended half hour and hour programs. We've interviewed the ambassador. We've had reports out of Johannesburg. We've had listeners who viewers who've called in and expressed their opinions about South Africa. In covering the South Africa story as far as see it is concerned, it's important to be balanced and to be fair. And that's what we've sought to do. I took part in question. Your duties and responsibilities here at CNN and how do you go about preparing your nightly newscast? Well, my responsibilities basically are to hang loose on the principal Washington Anchorman, which means I'm on call 24 hours a day. For example, when the savage murder of more than 200 American servicemen occurred in Beirut and guys who were sleeping in their racks over there.
When that happened, when in a short while of it's happening, Daniel Shore and I were walking into this bureau at quarter of five Sunday morning. We didn't leave until later that afternoon. When the president was shot at by John W. Hinkley here in Washington. We had just carried Mr. Reagan's address to this labor group lives and we were right back there. I didn't get out of the anchor chair until 10 o'clock that night. When Air Florida flight 90 crashed into the Potomac and to the 14th Street Bridge here in Washington. Again, I was on the air eight and nine hours. When major stories occur, my responsibility is to be on call and to be ready and be prepared to come in to help cover them. Preparing for the evening news starts early in the morning. What is on the news budget here in Washington? Meaning what news stories are we going to cover? And it unfolds. It unfolds throughout the day and it depends on how things go as to what is in the evening newscast.
We have a conference call at 11 o'clock in the morning, the participants of the evening news program. And this is just one of many conferences and meetings that occur throughout the day, not only here in Washington but in Atlanta as we coordinate what's coming in from our bureaus around the country and around the world. It's a series of non-stop meetings, discussions, conferences and along with reporters out on their beach covering stories be they here in Washington or elsewhere. And we went on with down until we decide what's important, what will be in the first hour of prime news and what will be in the second hour of the evening news. And the process goes on and on seven days a week. CNN Washington Bureau anchor Bernard Shaw. If you have a comment or would like to purchase a cassette copy of this program, write us the address is in Black America, Longhorn Radio Network, UT Austin, Austin, Texas, 787-12. For in Black America's technical producer David Alvarez, I'm John Hanson. Join us next week.
You've been listening to in Black America Reflections of the Black Experience in American Society. In Black America is produced and distributed by the Center for Telecommunication Services at UT Austin and does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Texas at Austin or the station. This is the Longhorn Radio Network.
- In Black America
- Bernard Shaw
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- KUT Radio
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- KUT Radio (Austin, Texas)
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Copyright Holder: KUT
Guest: Bernard Shaw
Host: John L. Hanson
Producing Organization: KUT Radio
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- APA: In Black America; Bernard Shaw. Boston, MA: KUT Radio, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-529-db7vm4423n