If ever there was a gold standard for American broadcast journalists the likely two top choices would be famed CBS reporter and anchor Walter Cronkite and the groundbreaking ABC News reporter and anchor Barbara Walters.
The news came late Friday that the legendary broadcast journalist had died peacefully surrounded by family and friends at her home in New York City at age 93. Walters shattered the glass ceiling in her profession and became a dominant force in an industry once dominated by men.
Without a doubt Walters likely holds a record for the shear number of interviews of the rich and famous, political leaders, as well as celebrities from every walk of life and endeavor. Walters, who won 12 Emmy awards, 11 of those while at ABC News was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1989.
In her fifty-plus year career as journalist she had earned nearly universal respect and admiration for her work.
At ABC News as the co-anchor of the network’s extremely successful award winning 20/20 televised news magazine, she interviewed the people who made history in the mid twentieth century into the early twenty-first century conducting her last interview of then businessman and potential presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2015.
Walters joined ABC News in 1976, becoming the first female anchor on an evening news program. Three years later, she became a co-host of “20/20,” and in 1997, she launched “The View.”
Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company which is the parent company of ABC News, praised Walters as someone who broke down barriers.
“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 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. She will be missed by all of us at The Walt Disney Company, and we send our deepest condolences to her daughter, Jacqueline,” Iger said in a statement Friday.
She made her final appearance as a co-host of “The View” in 2014, but remained an executive producer of the show and continued to do some interviews and specials for ABC News.
“I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain,” she said at the time. “I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and OK, some men too — who will be taking my place.”
From American presidents to her famed interview with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, along the way Walters touched on the lives of diverse and dynamic cross-section of humanity.
Her face to face conversations included face-to-face convos with folks like actors Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, Patrick Swayze, Fred Astaire. She spoke with musicians such as Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, Barbra Streisand, and without missing a beat the significant political figures of her day like Henry Kissinger, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vladimir Putin and Fidel Castro. Her interviews with Oprah and Monica Lewinsky shot the network’s ratings and audiences through the roof.
The list of people in front of the camera with her on The Barbara Walters Specials was breathtaking. Yet the stories of everyday folks, their lives, and struggles were a staple of her work searching out stories that needed to be told.
For the LGBTQ+ community, Walters often told the stories that painted a picture that was critical in putting a human face on an oft times maligned community. Her ABC Documentary on transgender children originally broadcast in 2007, introduced the world to trans girl Jazz Jennings, who was at six years of age at the time, and her hugely supportive family.
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