- NAME: Barbara Walters
- OCCUPATION: News Anchor, Television Producer, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: September 25, 1929 (Age: 84)
- Did You Know?: Walters is the first woman to co-anchor a network evening news program.
- EDUCATION: Sarah Lawrence College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Boston, Massachusetts
- Full Name: Barbara Jill Walters
- AKA: Barbara Walters
- Nickname: "Today Girl"
- ZODIAC SIGN: Libra
Best Known For
Famed television journalist Barbara Walters is best known as the 11-year star of the Today show, and for being the first female co-anchor of a network evening news program.
Barbara Walters is hired by ABC News as Harry Reasoner's co-anchor and becomes the highest paid anchor at the time.
Harry Reasoner unwillingly works as co-anchor with Barbara Walters and shows his contempt.
Barbara Walters interviews with Harry Smith and reveals her early ambitions of becoming an actress.
Barbara Walters gets a big break when asked to cover Jackie Kennedy on her visit to India.
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In 1975, she won her first Daytime Entertainment Emmy Award for best host in a talk series.
Enticed by an unprecedented $1 million annual salary, Walters accepted a job at ABC in 1976 as the first woman co-anchor of a network evening news program. That same year,
she was chosen to moderate the third and final presidential debate between challenger Jimmy Carter and incumbent President Gerald Ford. Walters also launched the first of a series of Barbara Walters Specials in 1976. The initial interview program featured President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She followed up the next year by arranging the first joint interview with Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.
It was during this time that Barbara Walters honed her skill as a reporter and solidified her probing interview style. She became known for her deftly maneuvered questions, often catching her subjects off guard and revealing uncommon candor. Her success has been attributed to her relentless effort to get the "first interview" from a wide range of people, an uncanny ability to ask the questions the public would most like to hear, and her ability not to alienate the people she interviews.
Many of Walters's male colleagues were outraged and openly critical of her new found success. Among the most outspoken was her ABC co-anchor, Harry Reasoner, whose patronizing manner was apparent on camera. Critics also remained skeptical of Walters's qualifications as a credible journalist and questioned the move as a publicity stunt by ABC News to cash in on Walters's "star status." Adding to Walters's credibility problems was Gilda Radner's famous parody of "Baba Wawa" on Saturday Night Live, in which Radner exaggerated Walters's slight speech impediment. Though ABC's market research indicated male news anchors were not exclusively preferred by the audience, the ratings for the evening news program were disastrous, and the network released Walters within two years.
In 1979, Barbara Walters became a part-time correspondent for the ABC news show, 20/20. She scored an exclusive interview with former President Richard Nixon in 1980—his first TV interview since his resignation in 1974. By the fall of 1981, she was a regular contributor to the program. She, along with former Today show partner Hugh Downs, was elevated to co-host in 1984. Downs retired in 1999, and Walters continued to co-host the show with John Miller and later John Stossel. In September 2000, Walters renewed her contract with ABC News for five more years. Her reported $12 million yearly salary made her the highest-paid news host in history. In September 2004, at the age of 73, Walters stepped down as co-host of 20/20. Her final regular appearance on the program featured a 25-year retrospective of her interviews with heads of state, entertainment personalities, the famous, and the infamous.
Over the years, Barbara Walters has refined the art of "personality journalism" and "being the first" interviews.
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