Sandy Kenyon remembers his mentor and friend, Bernard Shaw

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Friday, September 9, 2022
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I feel blessed to have received the best training possible from the best teacher, Bernard Shaw. Sandy Kenyon reflets on his memories with Bernard Shaw.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- I never went to journalism school and do not hold a journalism degree, yet I feel blessed to have received the best training possible from the best teacher. I always say I went to a College of One with Bernard Shaw as my only teacher. It's impossible to imagine my life as a journalist or even as a man without Bernie's transformative influence. He was my mentor and my friend and that's the way it was for 42 years. I feel especially blessed today that I had a chance to visit him this past summer.

In June I traveled to Washington DC to have a long lunch with him. His wife Linda, who I have known and loved just as long, was kind enough to pick me up at the train station and take me to the famed Tabard Inn. We were joined by Pat Reap, our first intern who is now a respected executive at The Washington Post. Together, we traveled back in time to the Spring of 1980.

Bernard Shaw and Sandy Kenyon (left) at CNN in Washington, D.C. in 1980

I was the last person hired by the Washington Bureau of CNN before the network was launched on June 1st of that year. I was only hired because the first choice for his writer/producer chose to stay in his existing job. I had literally nothing to lose, but for Bernie, a veteran of both CBS and ABC News, going to the new network everyone called "Chicken Noodle News" was a big risk!

For the first six months he had to read every script off of a piece of paper. No teleprompter! But, over the course of 15 broadcasts per day we wrote and produced together, I eventually learned how to be a journalist from the best professor in the country. We young ones even called him Dr. Shaw, though the title was one that we alone bestowed! We all felt Bernie was the best anchor of his generation. Bar none.

During the first two years of CNN's existence, he kept faith in me even though I had no formal training and had even flunked typing in high school! Only an extraordinary mentor and teacher could have managed with such an inexperienced person; and today, I marvel at his patience. I am so grateful he had faith in me until I could get up to speed and be an asset to him. Forty years after I met Bernie, I still recall the lessons he taught me. At least once a week, I will think of his advice while writing a line of copy and then try anew to come up to his high standard.

Bernie Shaw had the intellect of the finest minds, the charisma of a great star (though God forbid anyone ever told him that), the gravitas of a great TV anchor, but he also had a way of tapping into his own deep well of humanity to connect with viewers-especially in times of crisis.

Bernard Shaw, Sandy Kenyon, and members of the CNN team on Election night 1980.

After the assassination attempt on President Reagan, Shaw was on the air for 20 consecutive hours without a break and with me sitting right below his position at the anchor desk. I was where I belonged: at his feet. Shaw was the only network anchor not to declare White House Press Secretary Jim Brady dead. A U.S. Senator had phoned us first with the "news," and yet Bernie never put it on the air despite intense pressure to do so. Why not? As he explained to me many hours later, Senator Howard Baker (R-TN) was merely reporting second-hand information. And, that information later proved false. Brady lived many more years.

"Kinyon," Bernie told me using his unique pronunciation of my last name, "Senator Baker is a good man, but he was not at the hospital!"

This was just one lesson on one day. There were many more I carry with me always. By leading through example, by taking the time to explain the details of the craft, and by showing faith in me when others would not, Bernard Shaw was the ideal mentor to me and the finest man I ever knew.

Bernard Shaw (left) talking to Sandy and others on Election night 1980. Sandy working hard at his desk (right) that same night.

As someone who covers celebrities, I know that rarest of all beings is that famous person you get to know who grows in your estimation as you come to know them better. The closer you looked at Bernie, the better he looked, and for me that continued until the day he died, because he faced his final illnesses with such grace, filled always with his love for his wife Linda and his grown children, Amar and Anil.

Bernie Shaw changed my life forever, and I will spend the rest of my days trying to live up to the standards he set as a journalist, but even more importantly - as a man.

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