FOR CNN’S CLAIRE SHIPMAN AND Steve Hurst, married life has always taken its cues from the news. Take their wedding: Posted in Moscow in the summer of 1991, bureau chief Hurst and producer-correspondent Shipman scrambled to cover the George Bush-Mikhail Gorbachev summit and entertain a CNN delegation of 85 while scheduling—and rescheduling—their nuptials. By the time they walked down the aisle of a Russian Orthodox church a week later, the two were exhausted, as well as ecstatic. After a brief trip to the Black Sea, they returned to Moscow on Aug. 18 only to get a call at 5 a.m. the next day reporting that a coup was brewing. Says Hurst: “We threw on our clothes and ran to the office.”
Plunging into the story, the newly-weds had their first professional spat. While Boris Yeltsin barricaded himself inside the Russian Parliament, rallying opposition to Communist hard-line coup plotters, Shipman found a bulletproof vest, talked her way inside the building and began feeding reports to CNN. Defying an order from Hurst (who had heard rumors that the military was moving in), she stayed until 4 a.m. “She wasn’t happy about leaving,” he admits. “Let’s just say we were in complete disagreement about the danger.”
These days frantic 14-hour shifts are still a part of their lives, but danger, for the most part, is not. Based in Washington, where Hurst, 48, covers the State Department for CNN and Shipman, 32, is a White House correspondent, the two admit that they long for the emotional intensity of Moscow. “I miss it horribly,” says Hurst, who went to the Soviet Union as an Associated Press correspondent in 1979 and spent two years as NBC’s bureau chief before signing on with CNN in 1988. “When we left, Gorbachev called us in to say goodbye and gave us each a bear hug. It’s that kind of place.”
Raised in the Midwest, Hurst and Shipman each chose journalism as a route to the Soviet Union. The older of two children of insurance-company manager Charles Hurst and his wife, Mary, Steve wed high school sweetheart Kathy Beaman while both were at Millikin College in Illinois. As seniors, they spent a semester in Budapest and became fascinated with Eastern Europe. After a three-year stint with the Decatur Herald-Review, Hurst entered the graduate program of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Illinois. Landing a job with AP in Columbus, Ohio, in 1976, he lobbied until he was sent to Moscow three years later.
Shipman’s passion for the Soviet Union was sparked in 1985 when, as a Columbia University senior, she spent a summer studying Russian in St. Petersburg. Raised in Columbus, the older daughter of Morgan Shipman, a law professor at Ohio State, and his wife, Christie, she had welcomed the adventure. Her mother, who suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, had died in 1983, and Claire’s grief was still fresh. “Gorbachev had just come to power, and it was still the Soviet Union—intimidating and intriguing,” she says.
A college internship at CNN led to stints as a production assistant and network publicist before Shipman entered the graduate program at Columbia, studying international affairs. In 1989 she landed an unpaid internship in Moscow, where bureau chief Hurst was skeptical of her credentials. CNN executive vice president Ed Turner reassured him. “I told him, ‘Trust me, she’s intelligent and ambitious,’ ” says Turner. “Three months later he called me to say, ‘She’s not bad.’ And then months and months later he called to say, ‘Hey, we’re getting married.’ ”
For her part, Claire was concerned that their romance—which developed five months after Hurst’s marriage collapsed and Kathy returned to the U.S. with Sally, now 22, Anne, 19, and Ellen, 16—would spark controversy. Although she had proved her mettle as a reporter, she worried about dating Steve. “I thought, ‘This is a big decision,’ ” she says. “I thought I would be accused of destroying his marriage and marrying him to get ahead.”
Fortunately, colleagues at CNN seem to have only admiration for the two. “They’re a great couple journalistically and deeply in love,” says Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s senior White House correspondent. “Steve’s a world-class journalist, and I predict she’ll be a star.”
Now a doctoral student at Illinois State University, Kathy is on good terms with the two; all three daughters visit Steve and Claire in their elegant Cleveland Park home, which is filled with Russian artifacts. Says Shipman: “They’ve all really accepted me.” And while they’d like to have children of their own, CNN’s high-profile team is holding off for the moment. Explains Shipman with a laugh: “Not to sound too planned, but we’re waiting until we get through the next election.”
JANE SIMS PODESTA in Washington