Where are they now? CNN’s Boys of Baghdad

Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett, and John Holliman were pioneers of real-time war coverage
From left to right, Shaw, Arnett, and Holliman
From left to right, Shaw, Arnett, and Holliman

Photograph courtesy of Tom Johnson

When CNN anchor Bernard Shaw flew to Iraq to interview Saddam Hussein, he didn’t intend to make history as a war correspondent. Shaw—along with reporters Peter Arnett and John Holliman and producer Robert Wiener—was in a hotel awaiting a call from Hussein’s reps when the deadline for U.N. sanctions passed. War was imminent and the U.S. was going to bomb Baghdad. The first TV cable news journalists to cover a war in real time, they broadcast from their hotel room. CNN’s ratings soared and audiences rooted for the “Boys of Baghdad,” even as Shaw, off-air, feared for his life. As he told viewers at one point, “This feels like we’re in the center of hell.”

Holliman died in 1998. In recent years, Arnett has taught journalism at China’s Shantou University. Shaw, now 74, is retired in Takoma Park, Maryland. “I learned from four years in the Marine Corps that a bullet does not discriminate,” he says. “So I made my peace with the fact that I could be dead at any moment. When I likened Baghdad to hell, my wife and children happened to be watching. They had never heard fear in their father’s voice before, and they started to cry. My wife, Linda, stood up in front of the TV set and said, ‘This is your father’s job.’ She didn’t let on, but she knew I was in big trouble.”

Who knew?
The 2002 HBO movie Live from Baghdad chronicled CNN’s groundbreaking coverage. The film focused on producer Robert Wiener, played by Michael Keaton. Robert Wisdom (best known as Major “Bunny” Colvin on The Wire) portrayed Shaw.

Back to the 90s

This article originally appeared in our March 2015 issue.