NEW YORK (AP) â€” Bernard Shaw, chief anchorman for most major stories during CNN's 20-year history, said Friday he will leave the network early next year to write books and spend more time with his family.
Shaw, 60, planned to tell viewers his decision Friday at the end of ``Inside Politics,'' the daily show he anchors with Judy Woodruff.
Along with Larry King and Christiane Amanpour, Shaw is the most visible face on the cable news network. He's been there since the beginning, leaving a job as reporter for ABC News to join CNN in 1980 when it was an idea, not a network.
``Harder than entering this business is leaving it and leaving CNN,'' he said. ``But you know, some roses are so fragrant. And as a gardener, I want to grow and smell them more, when I'm not writing.''
Shaw's reports from Baghdad at the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991, with bombs bursting outside his hotel window, were arguably the pivotal moment in establishing CNN as a network many Americans turn to during major stories.
He was the last of the remaining chief on-air reporters with CNN at that pivotal moment. Peter Arnett left CNN under a cloud after the retracted Tailwind story, which accused the U.S. military of using nerve gas on Vietnam War-era defectors, and John Holliman died in a car crash in 1998.
As a moderator of a 1988 presidential debate between George Bush and Michael Dukakis, Shaw grabbed headlines with his opening question: ``Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?'' Dukakis' unemotional response was widely criticized.
Shaw said later the question ``will follow me to my grave.''
Shaw will leave when his contract expires Feb. 28, 2001. He said he may be enticed into occasional on-air work, and network founder Ted Turner said Shaw ``will always have a home at CNN.''
``Bernie Shaw is one of a handful of CNN `founders' who helped take 24-hour news from an exciting concept 20 years ago to a fact of life for one billion people around the globe today,'' Turner said.
Many of his colleagues ``thought I was crazy'' for leaving ABC to work at CNN, he said. ``I thought it was the last frontier in network television news.''
He grew up in Chicago and wanted to be a journalist since he was 13. Shaw set a goal of working for CBS News by age 30, and missed it by a year. He was a CBS correspondent in Washington from 1971 to 1977 before leaving for ABC.
``Bernie brought credibility,'' said Tom Johnson, chairman and CEO of the CNN News Group. ``He brought a reputation for journalistic independence. He demonstrated that we were quite serious about providing an authentic news service, one that would be highly respected in the U.S. and in the profession.''
``Inside Politics'' airs from 5 to 6 p.m. ET on weekdays. Shaw also anchors the 30-minute ``CNN World View'' at 6 p.m., the network's equivalent to the evening news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC. Woodruff will remain the sole anchor of the two shows after Shaw leaves.
Still exhausted from a 16-hour on-air shift that ended at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Shaw said he wouldn't miss having to put his personal life on standby for big stories.
His first project will be an autobiography. He said he also wants to write fiction, a book of essays and a journalism primer.
He leaves CNN in the midst of an identity search. Competition from CNBC, Fox News Channel and MSNBC and a paucity of long-running big stories cut into its viewership over the past few years, and the network changed management over the summer.
Shaw said CNN ``changed the economics of the news business by doing more with less.'' Unfortunately, he said, other networks took that lesson and cut jobs.
He resisted calling his announcement a retirement.
``I'm not retiring,'' he said. ``I'm stepping back.''