An iconic trailblazer for not only women everywhere, but TV journalism as a whole, Barbara Walters lived a life full of ambition and curiosity which led her to become not only the first but one of the best TV journalists of our time.
Born September 25, 1926, Barbara Jill Walters’ early life was spent with her mother Dena and her father Lou Walters in Boston, MA.
Her father managed a string of nightclubs throughout her early life, which kept Barbara surrounded by them and prevented her from growing starstruck, or becoming in awe of them. This was carried throughout her life and is a notable quality in her interviews.
In 1951, Walters attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Her early career consisted of working with small advertising agencies for about a year before working for shorter periods of time at different networks and talk shows until finally settling in and making her big break.
Her national broadcast career started in 1961 when Barabra signed on with NBC to be a writer, reporter, and panel member for the still-running “Today” show. In 1974, Walters was promoted to co-host, becoming the first female co-host in what was then the show’s 24 year run.
Two years later, Walters moved to join ABC News and become the first ever female anchor on an evening news program. Throughout her time with that network, Barbara brought multiple projects to life, launching both “The Barbara Walters Specials” and “10 Most Fascinating People.” In 1984 Barbara became a correspondent as well as the co-host for “20/20” for ABC News.
Her career, which spanned over five decades, was full of exclusive interviews and specials, as well as taking up her position on “The View”, a women-centered discussion panel that aired as a daytime TV talk show, which she launched in 1997. Walters’ historic interviews consisted of not only celebrities, but world leaders, international sports stars, and people from all walks of life.
Walters’ is recognized today as one of the most well known, fearless interviewers who never had issues asking the tough questions to even the most important people. This reputation is what helped her create outstanding work- work she has won 12 Emmy awards for.
Barbara’s last television appearance was in 2014, where she said goodbye to being co-host of ABC’s “20/20” as well as to being in the public spotlight, having made no big public appearances since around 2016.
Since the news of her passing, many have spoken out in remembrance of the pioneering journalist. Bob Iger, the CEO of Walt Disney, said “She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time.” Paul McCartney, who is married to Barbara’s sister, said Barbara “was an amazing woman who more than held her own in the early days of male-dominated television… We will miss her, but always remember her with great fondness.”
Cindi Berger, the spokesperson for Walters, said Barbara “passed peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones”, and that she “lived her life with no regrets.” ABC has announced they will be remembering her with two specials in her honor: “Our Barbara: A Special Edition of 20/20”, and “The View Honors Barbara Walters.”
As fans of her work, how are we to honor Barbara? How do we carry on her legacy? We simply empower all young women to make their own strides within the news industry, just as she hoped to do for those women currently writing and reporting the news today.
“How do you say goodbye to something like 50 years in television? How proud when I see all the young women who are making and reporting the news. If I did anything to help make that happen, that is my legacy.”