Journalism and COVID-19: Remembering Donald Shannon

This journalist profile is part of Journalism and COVID-19: The Toll of a Pandemic, PEN America’s project covering the toll of the coronavirus crisis on the journalism industry in the United States. Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of the journalists lost during the pandemic.

Donald H. Shannon photo

Photo courtesy of John Shannon

Name: Donald Shannon
Age: 97
Died: July 17, 2020
Location: Charleston, SC
Work History:1 Robert Devaney, “A Lion of Georgetown: Don Shannon, 1923-2020The Georgetowner, July 27, 2020; Doyle McManus, “Donald Shannon, Times correspondent who covered JFK and the Cold War, dies of COVID-19Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2020.

  • President, Citizens Association of Georgetown
  • Foreign Correspondent, Los Angeles Times
  • Washington Correspondent, Los Angeles Times
  • Reporter, Western Reporters news service
  • Reporter, United Press International
  • Reporter, Brazil Herald
  • Served with U.S. forces in World War II

Selected Remembrances:
“The book of journalist Donald Shannon’s life opened with one headline-generating pandemic and ended with another. He was born in 1923, just a few years after the Spanish flu, then died 97 years later, due to complications of COVID-19. In between, he covered stories large and small, traveled the world, married and raised a family.”
—Jennifer Berry Hawes, Reporter, The Post and Courier [The Post and Courier]

“A lion of Georgetown has left us. Don was a wonderful, warm, energetic person. . . Don was very vocal about his opinions of politicians who he felt let D.C. down. At one memorable CAG meeting following another reelection of Marion Barry, the ‘Mayor for Life’ had been invited to speak about his plans. Don began a question about something Barry said by addressing him as ‘Mayor Sleazebag’ to the consternation but also delight of those present. However, on most issues Don was more temperate, a voice of reason whose views commanded respect.”
—Richard deC. Hinds, General Counsel, Citizens Association of Georgetown [The Georgetowner]

“He and [his wife] Sally both loved Washington, where they had many friends and attended countless official and social events. They lived in a federal period townhouse in Georgetown. When he bought it in 1951, the city had condemned it as uninhabitable. The Shannons were champions of Georgetown.”
—Family of Donald H. Shannon [The Georgetowner]

“In 1954, when Shannon was assigned to cover important Supreme Court decisions, he compensated for his lack of legal expertise by telephoning an acquaintance from California, then-Chief Justice Earl Warren. In Shannon’s telling, Warren agreed to explain the court’s decisions to the young reporter each week, off the record.

“The arrangement worked until Justice Robert H. Jackson died of a heart attack at his secretary’s home. When Shannon asked Warren if Jackson had a personal relationship with the woman, the chief justice stiffly replied: ‘Young man, please never call me again.’”
—Doyle McManus, Washington Columnist, Los Angeles Times [Los Angeles Times]

Selected Work (via
Reagan Attacks Castro in Surprise Broadcast to CubansLos Angeles Times, January 6, 1984.

“WASHINGTON—President Reagan announced his Radio Marti information program to the Cuban people Thursday night with a surprise broadcast in which he sharply attacked Cuban President Fidel Castro’s 25-year-old revolution.”

The U.N. General Assembly: It Can’t Get No RespectLos Angeles Times, December 24, 1978.

“UNITED NATIONS—There are many reasons why the United Nations General Assembly doesn’t work, and another one was added just as the Assembly faltered to a finish this week.”

Japan: Clear Lack of a Foreign PolicyLos Angeles Times, April 12, 1970.

“TOKYO—The great hijack in which Japan so spectacularly joined the rest of the world, with all its air piracies, showed, at the asme time, how apart from the world Japan remains.”

New Diplomacy in New AfricaLos Angeles Times, April 17, 1966.

“LEOPOLDVILLE—By coincidence, and certainly nothing more, the series of African military coups in the early part of this year came as Gov. G. Mennen Williams was ending his six-year service as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for American Affairs.”

French Are Realizing Seriousness of VietnamLos Angeles Times, January 29, 1965.

“PARIS—The ‘I told you so’ satisfaction that a lot of Frenchmen from Gen. de Gaulle down were getting out of the crumbling U.S. position in South Vietnam is giving way to the realization that defeat will be a blow to all the Western world and not merely the United States.”