Barbara Walters, revolutionary television journalist, dies at 93

Barbara Walters, the iconic television journalist known for her interviews with presidents, world leaders and Hollywood stars, has died at the age of 93, a representative for Walters confirmed to CBS News Friday night.

“Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by her loved ones. She lived her life with no regrets. She was a pioneer not just for women journalists, but for all women,” Rep. Cindi Berger said in a statement. .

There was no immediate word on a cause of Walters’ death.

Walters was a familiar face on American television sets for more than 50 years, interviewing every president from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama and setting a standard few others could match.

Born in Boston in 1929, Walters attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, according to her ABC News profile. She started in the early 1960s as a writer and researcher on NBC’s “Today” show, but within a year became a generalist journalist, responsible for developing, writing and editing her own stories.

Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters attends the 2015 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City.

Andrew Toth/FilmMagic/Getty Images

It was at NBC that Walters began to develop his signature interview technique: questions that seemed casual but turned out to be revealing. In a 2000 interview with the Television Academy about her career, she described her process of developing these issues.

“I write questions on cards, and I write hundreds…” she says. “I write whatever comes to mind. I go around and say to people, ‘What would you ask if you could? What would you ask?’ And then I boil them and boil them and boil them.”

In 1974, Walters was named the first “Today” co-host. Two years later, she left for ABC, where she became the first woman to co-host an evening news show on the network.

She reached spectacular heights at ABC, including organizing and directing the first-ever joint interview with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in November 1977 as they led their countries to a historic peace accord.

ABC's Barbara Walters - File Photos
Barbara Walters interviews Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on November 20, 1977.

ABC Photo Archive via Getty Images

“It was a historic interview, and it’s one that I’m very proud to have kind of, you know, participated in. I can’t take credit for writing a great story. But when people say to me, ‘Of all the interviews you’ve done, or all the people you know…’ It’s so hard to answer that. But I usually say Anwar Sadat,” she said in the Television Academy interview, highlighting the impact of Sadat’s actions on the future of the region. .

On ABC’s “20/20” newsmagazine and in his own specials, Walters continued to add to his list of great interviews. Among his guests were Russian President Boris Yeltsin, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Libyan Moammar Kadaffi and Iraqi Sadaam Hussein. She also conducted the first interview with President George W. Bush after the September 11 terrorist attacks and was the first American journalist to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 1999, Walters also got the first television interview with Monica Lewinsky following the scandal that led to the impeachment and acquittal of President Bill Clinton. This interview became the highest-rated news program ever aired by a single network, according to ABC.

“Barbara was a true legend, a trailblazer not just for women in journalism, but for journalism itself. She was a one-of-a-kind journalist who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from from heads of state and regime leaders to the biggest celebrities and sports icons,” wrote Robert Iger, CEO of ABC-owned Disney.

Along the way, she’s become one of America’s most well-known and admired women — famous enough to be spoofed on “Saturday Night Live.”

Walters also helped create the mid-morning talk show “The View,” which she says originated in 1997 when the network asked her if she had any ideas for daytime television. She told the Television Academy that “The View” allowed her to show a side of her personality that didn’t appear in a typical interview.

“People saw me as very bossy and very serious because that’s what I mainly did. And here I can be myself – I have to be careful, because these other women can kind of go overboard with it. me, you know, they’ll wonder about my sex life or who i was – you know, what i did, i don’t know, personal questions, what i did on saturday last night,” she said. “But it’s a chance for me to be a lot more myself, to laugh and speak spontaneously, and it’s been very successful.”

In 2004, after 25 years as “20/20” co-host and chief correspondent, Walters left the show, but she remained on the network to create prime-time news specials. , including its annual “10 Most Fascinating People” shows, featuring many of the year’s biggest celebrities and newsmakers.

Speaking to Oprah Winfrey at the time, Walters said she wanted to quit “20/20” to see more people.

“I’ve worked all my life and never had time to go to a city or a country where I haven’t been in the studio,” she said. “I watched [a primetime special about Oprah’s work in South Africa] not just with tears but with nostalgia. I’ve been to China four times, but I’ve never really seen China.”

During an appearance on “The View” in 2013, she announced its intention retiring from television the following year.

“I rather want to sit in a sunny field and admire the very talented women – OK, some men too – who will take my place,” she said at the time.

Walters has won dozens of awards throughout his career, including the Overseas Press Club’s Highest Honor, a Daytime Emmy for “The View” and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. There is also a wax figure of her at Madame Tussauds in New York and a star with her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

For his last day on “The View” in 2014, female journalists from all decades and all networks joined her on stage. The guest list included Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Gayle King, Savannah Guthrie, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung and many more.

“It’s my heritage…these are my heritage,” Walters said, looking around at the women.

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