The pioneering journalist Barbara Walters has passed away. She was the first woman to lead a morning and an evening television news program and was once the highest-paid TV news broadcaster in the nation. Age-wise, she was 93. According to Robert Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co., Ms. Walters passed on Friday night at her home in New York.
Ms. Walters ascended from preparing news releases for a small-town New York TV station in the early 1950s to become the grande dame of television news. She is most known for her interviews with world leaders, celebrities, and newsmakers. She paved the path for a generation of women to follow in her footsteps by overcoming several obstacles along the way, including Diane Sawyer, Jane Pauley, and Katie Couric.
A pioneering journalist, Barbara Walters was well-known for her sit-down conversations with celebrities, newsmakers, and international leaders. She was the first female TV news anchor of both morning and evening shows. Picture: Reuters/Mariano Anzuoni
Additionally, Ms. Walters started the trend of the celebrity journalist. She rose to fame alongside the persons she spoke with, many of whom saw an interview with her as a mark of success.
According to newsroom purists, Ms. Walters’ and many who followed her style changed journalism at a time when getting the big TV interview was considered a “get” and pursuing a tabloid story frequently took precedence over reporting the news.
But according to her admirers, Ms. Walters seamlessly transitioned between harsh and soft news. Since Richard Nixon, she has spoken with practically all American presidents. In 1977, she conducted the first-ever joint interview with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. She also secured the first television interview with former intern Monica Lewinsky for the Clinton White House, which in 1999 attracted 74 million people, a record for a news show. Hers was the second presidential debate moderator role in history.
Despite being raised in New York City, Barbara Jill Walters was born on September 25, 1929, in Boston. Her father, Lou Walters, was the owner of the renowned Latin Quarter nightclub, so she was raised in a show industry family. Ms. Walters claims that growing up around famous people diminished their allure for her as a reporter.
She accepted a position in the public relations division of the NBC television station in New York following her graduation from Sarah Lawrence College. She subsequently transitioned into production, working on the renowned ABC News and ABC Sports chief Roone Arledge’s children’s show “Ask the Camera.”
Following her time on the nightly news, Ms. Walters joined “20/20,” a prime-time news magazine, as a journalist. She ultimately rose to co-host, a position she held for 20 years before retiring in 2004. She also became well-known for the TV specials she would conduct with well-known show business figures prior to the Academy Awards.
Additionally, Ms. Walters created and starred in the storied ABC daytime talk show “The View.” Starting in 1997, the program featured a panel of female celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell over the years. The show’s executive producer and occasional host was Ms. Walters. She frequently played the role of the den mother while she was on the radio and was compelled to mediate arguments between other panelists. “The View” is still a mainstay of ABC’s daytime programming.
Both Ms. Walters’ professional and social lives were fascinating. She had four marriages, including two to television producer Merv Adelson and one each to Lee Guber and Lee Adelson, both of whom worked in the theater. Early on, she was briefly married to Robert Katz.
She dated Roy Cohn while in college; Cohn later served as the prosecutor in the Rosenberg espionage case and served as Donald Trump’s mentor. She had an affair with Republican Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts in the 1970s, as she revealed in her book, and dated former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Jacqueline Danforth, Ms. Walters’ daughter, is the sole heir.
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