Trailblazer Barbara Walters (1929-2022) 

Broadcast journalist Barbara Walters has died at the age of 93 after spending more than 50 years in front of the camera.

Walters was one of the trailblazers in the journalism field when she broke the glass ceiling, serving as the first female co-host of “The Today Show” and the first woman anchor of a network evening news program.

Walters got her start as a writer for NBC in 1961 (the “token” woman, as the New York Times put it). She left NBC for rival network ABC in 1976 to co-anchor the evening news with Harry Reasoner. It was there she nabbed a five-year, $5-million dollar contract. That particular move made Walters the highest-profile female journalist in TV history and the highest paid news anchor (male or female). Her arrival was a turning point in journalism for females, paving the way for household names we know today like Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer.

By 1979, Walters had begun co-hosting “20/20,” a news program that still airs to this day. By 1997, Walters had launched “The View.”

Walters’s celebrity interviews began what we see as “infotainment” today. With her meticulous research, respectful insistence, and ability to bring raw emotion to her interviewees, Walters made a name for herself over the decades we saw her on TV.

Barbara Jill Walters was born in Boston on Sept. 25, 1929, “the youngest daughter of Lou Walters, a vaudeville booker-turned-nightclub impresario who created the famed Latin Quarter club in Times Square, and Dena Seletsky, a clerk in a men’s neckwear store,” according to the L.A. Times. Her parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants to the United States. Walters earned a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951.

Her ease around celebrities was perhaps due to her father’s line of work as a booking agent and nightclub producer, discovering comedians like Fred Allen and Jack Haley (aka the “Tin Man” in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz”).

During her illustrious career, Walters collected a dozen Emmy Awards, 11 of which were earned at ABC. She reached the top of her chosen field despite a speech impediment that gave her difficulty pronouncing her R’s. The speech difficulties made Walters the subject of comedian Gilda Radner’s “Babwa WaWa” sketches in the ‘70s. Walters was reported to not be a fan of the spoof until her daughter told her to lighten up.

During her career, Walters interviewed every sitting U.S. president and first lady from Richard and Pat Nixon to Barack and Michelle Obama (having interviewed Donald Trump and Joe Biden before they were elected to the presidency.)

Savannah Guthrie, current co-host of NBC’s “Today Show” tweeted, “Thank you, Barbara. You showed the way. you made it possible for the rest of us.” NBC News Chief Washington Correspondent Andrea Mitchell said in a statement that Walters “was a role model for all women aspiring to become broadcast journalists when television news was exclusively for men.” ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer said in a statement, “Barbara was a trailblazer, a singular force who opened the door for every woman in television news.”

When she left “The View,” Walters said, “I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain, I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and okay, some men too — who will be taking my place.”

Walters continued to appear on ABC’s “The View” until she was 84. She died at her home in Manhattan on Dec. 30.



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