Barbara Walters, iconic broadcast journalist, dead at 93

  • Iconic television journalist Barbara Walters has died at the age of 93.
  • Walters became the first woman to host an evening newscast in 1964.
  • After leaving NBC, Walters became a renowned interviewer and co-founded “The View”.

Barbara Walters, iconic television journalist and TV personality who won a dozen Emmys, has died at age 93, ABC News reported Friday.

Walters was both a trailblazer for broadcast journalists and a beloved television personality. Over time, it became difficult to disentangle his own star power from that of his myriad interview subjects; Walters even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.

She has lived the vast majority of her adult life in front of the camera and played an irreplaceable role in shaping – and sometimes blurring – the intersection of current affairs and culture, reputable reporting and celebrity storylines.

Walters has won 12 Emmy Awards, after racking up dozens of nominations.

“Television could have been invented just to suit him,” wrote The New Yorker in 2008. “Walter’s almost unbelievable capacity for endurance indicates the perfect match between one person’s talents and one medium’s imperatives. “

Walters became the first woman to host an evening newscast in 1964

After earning a degree in English from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951, Walters landed a job at a local NBC station as a member of the public relations staff, as reported by The Huffington Post, in an article titled “How Barbara Walters everything changes”. She then became a producer.

She first gained public acclaim when the only female writer on “Today” left the show in 1961 and Walters was hired in her place.

She began to appear more and more on television, but almost strictly in stereotypical female-targeted segments; she filled in during a swimsuit demonstration and aired dressed as a Playboy Bunny.

Frank McGee, then the show’s host, reportedly refused to do joint news segments or interviews with Walters. For him, working with a woman “was a humiliation”, according to Walters.

In the spirit of that time, women in television “were supposed to do fashion shows and celebrities,” Walters told TVNewser. “When NBC hired me, I wasn’t an actor or a model, and I wasn’t singing. It was a huge breakthrough just putting myself on stage.”

Before Walters, the hosts of “Today” were called “Today Girls”. But thanks to her negotiations, Walter’s contract specifically stated that when McGee died – which he did in 1974, at age 52 – she “should be a co-host”.

“It’s my legacy,” she told Fusion in 2014. “All these young women are in the news now. There weren’t many when I started, there were very little. So if I have any legacy, it’s these women.”

Barbara Walters 1976

Walters on “Today” after her official debut as a co-host.

Dave Pickoff/AP

Even Gloria Steinem paid tribute to her pioneering role: “The change from the former ‘Today Girl’ – who was usually a cafe waitress and lighthearted lovable – to Barbara Walters is the industry’s change of attitude from television in the microcosm,” Steinem said in 1965.

Naturally, Walters was still plagued by sexism in the male-dominated media landscape. As Variety reported, during a press conference in 1976, Walters was peppered with questions about her wardrobe; others asked him to justify his staggering million-dollar salary.

Yet Walters was an emblem of perseverance and progress – and had already become a prominent face in broadcast journalism.

“Had she quit in 1976, Walters’ status as a TV superstar would have been secure,” writes the Huffington Post. “She reigned supreme on ‘Today’ and had already interviewed a stunning gallery of people.”

After joining ABC, Walters became the highest paid news anchor in the world.

Barbara Walters Harry Reasoner

Walters shown after opening night on ABC with co-anchor partner Harry Reasoner on October 4, 1976.


Walters’ stardom grew when she left NBC to co-host “ABC Evening News” with Harry Reasoner, who didn’t care to hide his contempt for the female addition.

“As far as billing the show, Mr. Reasoner had a suggestion: ‘sexist grace and courtesy,’ he said, ‘I suggest we just do it alphabetically by last name'” , The New York Times reported at the time.

Although she didn’t last long on the program with Reasoner, it helped cement Walters’ legacy as a formidable force in igniting audiences’ interest.

She then became a renowned celebrity interviewer

Walters had already built an impressive repertoire at NBC, having interviewed everyone from Grace Kelly to Henry Kissinger.

gerald ford barbara walters

Former US President Gerald Ford with Walters after their interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” ​​in 1984.

David Bookstaver/AP

She then presented the highlights of the interview as a co-host of “20/20”, like Michael Jackson and Fidel Castro (twice). She has sat with every American president, from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump.

His draw, his ability to land a major “get”, was rooted in his genuine curiosity; his ability to balance awe for his subjects with a persistent line of questioning.

As The New Yorker noted that Walters managed to interview Monica Lewinsky on camera, “the freak of all time,” with just one proposition: “I can give you the forum and the opportunity to present yourself with the utmost dignity. .”

His reputation for recognition and capturing star power was reflected in his annual “Most Intriguing People” list, which captured the public’s attention year after year.

Walters co-founded ‘The View’ in 1997

Although ABC’s first daytime talk show has gone through many changes since its inception, it has won 30 Daytime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Talk Show and Outstanding Talk Show Host.

“I’ve always wanted to do a show with women from different generations, backgrounds and opinions: a working mother, a professional in her thirties, a young woman just starting out, then someone who’s done almost everything. and who will say almost anything,” Walters says in the show’s original title sequence. “And in a perfect world, I could join the band whenever I wanted.”

After 50 years on television, Walters officially retired in 2014, but continued to appear on the program periodically. She retained her role as executive producer.

“If the pope said he would do an interview, would I come back? You bet,” she told Fusion after confirming her retirement. “If Queen Elizabeth said, ‘Would you do an interview? – she never did – would I come back? Yes.

“I’m not saying goodbye forever. I’m not walking into the sunset,” she continued. “You don’t say ‘never’ when you’re in this business.”

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