Barbara Walters: A Trailblazer in Journalism

The name Barbara Walters is followed by many titles that have impacted the entire broadcasting facet of modern-day entertainment including becoming the first female co-host of an American network evening news program, creating ABC’s sociopolitical and entertainment talk show ‘The View’ to empower women in journalism, and earning 11 Emmy nominations, 1 Emmy Award, and an induction into the Television Hall of Fame in 1989. Although she started as a writer-producer of a news program in 1953, she went on to conduct some of the most memorable interviews with important figures like Fidel Castro, Michael Jackson, Lucille Ball and Muhammad Ali.

Walters died peacefully on the evening of Friday, December 30, 2022 surrounded by her close friends and family. She was 93. Her fans and interviewees from all over the world offered condolences via social media platforms, most notably President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and social activist and poet Maya Angelou. Her colleagues from ‘The View’ such as Whoopi Goldberg and Debbie Matenopoulos reunited for a touching special episode to discuss her impact on their individual lives and journalism careers. Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger, who has worked with Walters in many instances for her shows, wrote a heartwarming Tweet: “Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself. She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state and leaders of regimes to the biggest celebrities and sports icons. I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend.”

Walters began her career at the NBC network’s flagship station WNBT-TV in New York City, working with the publicity department. In 1961, Walters joined NBC’s The Today Show as a writer and researcher and, over the years, moved up the ranks to become a reporter. In this position, she handled lighter stories and the weather because, she reasons in her autobiography, this was a time period when the general public thought that a woman would not be able to seriously report “hard news.” However, in just a year, Walters received so much support that she became a reporter-at-large which allowed her to have more airtime and write her own reports and interviews.

Walters was able to further her work in journalism when she signed a five-year, $5 million contract with ABC, establishing her as the highest-paid news anchor of her time, either male or female. She broke yet another barrier by co-anchoring the ABC Evening News from 1976 to 1978 with Harry Reasoner, making her the first U.S. female network news anchor. Throughout her career at ABC, Walters was well known for her specials as a credible commentator and masterful interviewer. She was also appointed as moderator for the third and final debate between candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford during the 1976 presidential election.

In 1976, Walters began airing her highly-rated Barbara Walters Specials interview program, in which there were many memorable moments that will continue to shape broadcasting. She had conversations with dictators like Fidel Castro to portray their personalities unlike any news source had done before, talked with entertainers about their personal lives such as Lucille Ball, Michael Jackson, Ringo Starr, Katherine Hepburn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, and Oprah, opened up the family lives of sports icons like Muhammad Ali, and allowed her viewers to better understand the policies of politicians like Vladmir Putin, Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher. Walters has interviewed every sitting U.S. president and first lady from Richard and Pat Nixon to Barack and Michelle Obama. She has also interviewed both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, outside of their presidency.

In 1997, Walters co-created and co-hosted the daytime talk show on ABC, ‘The View’. As Walters said in the show’s opening credits, The View was a forum for women of “different generations, backgrounds, and views.” Not only is The View still watched by millions of people, this concept of breaking gender barriers in journalism has spread to all corners of America and the rest of the world.

Walters’ investigative style, credible reporting, and fearless nature has made her an unforgettable figure and role model in the world of journalism. Aspiring journalists and broadcasters look up to her while her own colleagues keep her inspiring life story in their hearts. However, there is one quote of hers that will resonate with all of us no matter our race, gender, or aspirations: “One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”

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KRISHNA MANO

Hello! My name is Krishna Mano and I am an 10th Grader at City High School. This is my third year writing for the City Voice and first year as an editor. Apart from the newspaper, I am part of the Speech and Debate team, Student Ambassadors, and a board member of the NHS. Outside of school, my most favorite hobbies are reading, playing the violin, public speaking, and paddleboarding. If you have any questions about my articles, please contact me at krishna.mano.thecityvoice@gmail.com.

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