Barbara Walters, television news trailblazer, dies at 93
(NewsNation) — Barbara Walters, the intrepid interviewer, anchor and program host who led the way as the first woman to become a TV news superstar during a network career remarkable for its duration and variety, has died. She was 93.
ABC announced Walter’s death in a tweet Friday night, saying she “shattered a glass ceiling and became a dominant force in an industry once dominated by men.”
Walters was at ABC News for most of her career, anchoring “20/20” from 1979-2004. She was also a host on “The View” from 1997-2014.
During nearly four decades at ABC, and before that at NBC, Walters’ exclusive interviews with rulers, royalty and entertainers brought her celebrity status that ranked with theirs, while placing her at the forefront of the trend in broadcast journalism that made stars of TV reporters and brought news programs into the race for higher ratings.
Walters made headlines in 1976 as the first female network news anchor, with an unprecedented $1 million annual salary that drew gasps and criticism (while lost in the outcry were her additional duties extending beyond news). Her drive was legendary as she competed — not just with rival networks, but with colleagues at her own network — for each big “get” in a world jammed with more and more interviewers, including female journalists who had followed the trail she blazed.
“I never expected this!” Walters said in 2004, taking measure of her success. “I always thought I’d be a writer for television. I never even thought I’d be in front of a camera.”
But she was a natural on camera, especially when plying notables with questions.
“I’m not afraid when I’m interviewing, I have no fear!” Walters told The Associated Press in 2008.
Dusty Cohen, executive producer of NewsNation’s “CUOMO,” knew Walters personally through her work as a senior supervising producer on “The View.”
“She was the hardest worker,” Cohen said. “There’s a lot of hosts on The View, they’re all terrific, but Barbara was the gold standard. She set the pace and she was always the most prepared, always the first one, the last one out. That’s what she had to do to get where she was, and she never lost that drive that she had.”
Walters worked with the producers of “The View” very closely, Cohen said, and was instrumental in the success of the show.
“Her instincts were like none other,” she said. “She knew exactly when to ask the right questions, when not to, and people came because of Barbara, particularly the first few years, they only came because of Barbara.”
Dana Kennedy, a former correspondent at ABC News, called Walters a “mainstay” in the industry who fought her way up the ladder.
“She never gave up. She was incredibly tough, she was incredibly tenacious,” Kennedy said. “She wasn’t one of those people that acted like she was sweet and just got somewhere by luck. She was tough, and she admitted it.”
Late in her career, in 1997, she gave infotainment a new twist with “The View,” a live ABC weekday kaffee klatsch with an all-female panel for whom any topic was on the table and who welcomed guests ranging from world leaders to teen idols. A side venture and unexpected hit, Walters considered “The View” the “dessert” of her career.
In May 2014, she taped her final episode of “The View” amid much ceremony and a gathering of scores of luminaries to end a five-decade career in television (although she continued to make occasional TV appearances after that). During a commercial break, a throng of TV newswomen she had paved the way for — including Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts and Connie Chung — posed with her for a group portrait.
“I have to remember this on the bad days,” Walters said quietly, “because this is the best.”
Walters is survived by her only daughter, Jacqueline Danforth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.