Toby Canham | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Barbara Walters, the pioneering TV presenter who paved a way for women in a male-dominated medium, died Friday. She was 93 years old.
Her representative, Cindy Berger, confirmed her death and said Walters died “peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones.”
“She lived her life without regrets,” Berger said. “She was groundbreaking not just for women journalists, but for all women.”
ABC, the network where she last worked, aired a special Friday night announcing Walters’ death and reflecting on her career. Bob Iger, CEO of ABC’s parent company, The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement that Walters died Friday night at her residence in New York City.
He called her “a pioneer not only for women in journalism but for journalism itself”.
Walters was known in recent years as the co-creator and director of the popular ABC daytime program “The View,” but older viewers remember her as the first female anchor of a network news program and the outstanding interviewer on television. She earned this reputation through her penchant for meticulous preparation, whether she was interviewing tyrants, singers, models, or killers.
Read more from NBC News:
“I do a lot of homework, and I know more about a person than they know about themselves,” Walters said in a 2014 PBS special.
This drive proved essential to her success. When she broke into work in 1961 as a writer for NBC’s “TODAY” show, the idea of a woman sitting down and interviewing a seated boss on prime-time network television (which she did just over a decade later) seemed more fantasy than reality in an industry dominated by On it are men like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.
“She was playing on a field that was an old boy network, literally and figuratively, and she didn’t take no,” Robert Thompson, director of the Blair Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told NBC. News before Walters’ death.
“At some point, things that were a burden to her, being a woman trying to get a foothold in a male-dominated industry, started to become more of an asset,” Thompson said. “She was smart and ready, but at the same time she seemed more sympathetic[than her male peers].
“Barbara Walters proved to be the evolutionary step between Edward R. Murrow and Oprah Winfrey.”
Celebrity childhood exposure
In some ways, Walters has been preparing for these trademark interviews her whole life. Born in Boston on. ON THE 25TH, 1929, Barbara Gale Walters gets to see the rich and famous up close as the daughter of nightlife mogul Lou Walters, who owned clubs up and down the East Coast.
“I’ve learned that celebrities are people,” Walters said in 2014. “I’ve never thought of a celebrity as someone so perfect and wonderful that I should be put off.”
Inheriting her father’s drive, Walters graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a BA in English and dabbled in journalism as an assistant at NBC affiliate WRCA-TV. In 1955, she married businessman Robert Henry Katz, but her first love remained her fledgling career. The couple divorced after three years.
Walters was hired as a writer and researcher on “TODAY,” becoming the show’s sole producer and began appearing on air occasionally as a “TODAY Girl,” the reporting role dedicated to fashion shows, lifestyle trends, and weather that had made Florence Henderson of fame. Brady Bunch”.
Hardly the kind of tough report Walters was clearly looking forward to.
Outdoors, Walters married theater producer Lee Guber in 1963, with whom they adopted a daughter, Jacqueline, who was named after Walters’ older sister, who was developmentally disabled. The marriage will last 13 years.
Her breakthrough came with her assignment to fly with Jacqueline Kennedy on the first lady’s trip to India in 1962. This led to more news articles and a ballooning profile of co-hosting responsibilities opposite Hugh Downs – though she didn’t get in charge. title until 1974. By that time, Downes had left the network and was replaced by Frank McGee.
McGee, who died shortly after his engagement to Walters, demanded that he ask three questions to every Walters question in studio interviews. He was a real journalist, after all.
Therefore, Walters began conducting field interviews outside the studio, and quickly established a reputation as an insightful and investigative enquirer.
People were watching — including executives at rival networks. Walters was drawn to ABC becoming the first female co-anchor of a prime-time news broadcast with an unprecedented $1 million annual salary. However, it didn’t take long for viewers to sense the tension between Walters and co-host Harry Reasoner, who didn’t bother to hide his disdain for the former TODAY Girl billed as his equal.
Her newfound fame also earned her a noon honor: after struggling to pronounce a difficult R by Gilda Radner on “Saturday Night Live.” Walters later admitted that she did not find the “Baba Wawa” skits funny.
With her news show’s ABC ratings in disillusionment, Walters’ career was saved by the prime-time interview specials she started for ABC. It featured her first interview with President-elect Jimmy Carter, and within a year she had a joint interview with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat—a year before their historic peace treaty.
In 1979 she reunited with Downs on the ABC news magazine show “20/20”, beginning a successful 25-year career.
But it was her interviews that remained Walters’ passion, snagging her mix of challenging and entertaining questions on her trademark 3×5 index cards and talking about demand even after the cameras started rolling. In the 2014 television special commemorating her retirement from television journalism, Walters had a signed photo of Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro hanging on her wall: “For the longest and most difficult interview I have ever had.”
Although Walters received a lot of criticism for asking Katharine Hepburn, “What kind of tree are you?” — in fairness, following up on something the legendary actor said — she can ask the toughest questions, like looking Russian President Vladimir Putin in the eye and asking him if he ordered the murder of a rival.
Her exclusive interview with Monica Lewinsky in 1999 earned the highest ratings in history for a prime-time interview. In 1997, Walters launched a new show that was closer to her TODAY roots: a midday talk show with an all-female panel called “The View.” While she was co-executive producer and had a seat at the table, she chose Meredith Vieira as the first moderator.
Over the years, the hit show will include Whoopi Goldberg, Star Jones, Lisa Ling, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Rosie O’Donnell and Meghan McCain among the speakers.
While Walters has largely managed to avoid controversy over her long career, she caused a stir when it was revealed that she had been having an affair with the senator. Edward Brock, R-Mass, during the 1970s.
After nearly 60 years in journalism, Walters announced that she will be retiring in 2014.
“I don’t want to be on another show or climb another mountain,” she said. “I want instead to sit in a sunny field and admire the very talented women — and, well, some men, too — who will take my place.”