CEO, Better Government Association
As a veteran investigative journalist, Andy Shaw was a natural fit for the Better Government Association (BGA). Hired as executive director in 2009 and promoted to CEO in 2011, Mr. Shaw prepared to lead the company in a new direction. He sought not only to expose corrupt government, but also to propose remedies for change.
Interviewing him on the anniversary of his last assignment with ABC 7, I asked Mr. Shaw if he misses the ‘thrill of the chase’ ever since he shifted to the corporate world. He smiled, recalling fond memories of his coverage of the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, when Washington, DC, was completely shut down and the ABC news team had to travel, on foot, to all locations in frigid temps. “I feel an enormous sense of relief,” he says. “As much as I enjoyed news coverage, especially on big events like the inauguration, it was one of the hardest assignments I’d ever had. On the other hand, it was very rewarding because it was a piece of history. So even though it was fun to be there, it’s a great relief to watch from a distance.” (A little factoid – the day I met with Mr. Shaw was also the day of President Obama’s 2013 Inauguration. Fate?)
Mr. Shaw may have stepped off the reporting field, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of touch with the journalism world completely. “At the end of the day, I’m a writer first,” he says. “I love to put words to put words to paper, tell stories and create images with words. I write a monthly column for Shore Magazine and a weekly column in the Sun-Times. I like to keep my head in the game because, even though I run a non-profit, I’m still a journalist at heart.”
Mr. Shaw says he left ABC because he was burned out after 30-plus yeas in the news business. “The last thing I expected to do when I left ABC was run an organization,” he says, “but I knew how government should work, having covered it all those years. And since the government was a mess at all levels, I thought joining the BGA was a great opportunity to rebuild a great organization that had fallen on hard times, make a difference and demand the government perform better.”
Taking the lessons he learned throughout his career as a writer/reporter and pairing them with skills he acquired as BGA’s executive director, Mr. Shaw was more than prepared for the position as CEO, even though he’d never headed up an organization. “I never worked for a non-profit before, so thankfully our board of directors, donors and friends helped me acquire the necessary organizational skills when I was executive director. And four years later, we can point to a lot of successes, a lot of results, that suggest the government is on the mend – slowly but surely.”
Trying to rebuild a watchdog organization requires a lot of public outreach, and Mr. Shaw says the single biggest skill he brought to the table early on in his tenure with the BGA was communication. “I’m a professional communicator. So as we tried to rebuild the organization, I had to communicate our mission, goals and tools for change. Also, a lot of people already knew me, so I had a level of credibility. That’s hard to achieve if you’re not visible. Credibility though visibility and communication skills were key.”
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