On this day in 2014, Barbara Walters retired from journalism after almost 50 years on air. Walters, who is now 91 years old, had an incredibly expansive career with multiple infamous interviews with high-profile people. Known as a pioneer for women in TV journalism, Walters dramatically shifted the TV journalism landscape.
Before Fame: Early Life Of A Legendary Journalist
Barbara Walters was born in Massachusetts in 1929. She moved around multiple times during her upbringing as her father was a nightclub owner. In her early years, Walters lived in Massachusetts, New York City, and Miami. He also worked in show business as a booking agent, making and losing several fortunes.
Growing up, her family experienced a lot of financial highs and lows. From having a penthouse in New York to having all of their assets, down to their car and furniture taken away, she experienced a lot in her childhood and teen years.
She graduated high school in 1951 and received a B.A in English from Sarah Lawrence College in 1951. Immediately after receiving her degree, Walters got to work at a small advertising agency. After a year there, she started up a job at NBC affiliate WNBT-TV.
There, she headed a children’s program, Ask the Camera. Sadly, Walters left her job after her boss tried to pressure her to marry him and then physically fought with the man she was interested in.
Barbara Walters Led A Career Full Of Accomplishments
After her dramatic ending with the NBC affiliate, she worked multiple writing jobs. In 1961, executives hired Walters to work as a TV writer and producer for The Today Show. This is truly where her career began to flourish. First, she worked as a “today girl” where she handled lighter news and the weather. In her autobiography, she noted that it was a time period where people feared nobody could take a woman seriously doing “hard news.”
NBC officially named Walters the program’s first female co-host in 1974 after years of writing her own stories and conducting her own interviews. She also worked on ABC and hosted 20/20 for many years, where she conducted some of her most infamous interviews.
Barbara Walters interviewed multiple celebrities, from Katherine Hepburn to Michael Jackson to Lucille Ball. She also interviewed multiple world leaders, including an infamous one with Fidel Castro in 1977, where she confronted him about freedom of the press. She interviewed Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher, the Shah of Iran, Muammar al-Gaddafi, every president from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, Monica Lewinsky, and many others.
A Well Deserved Retirement
Walters also co-created and co-hosted The View, which she worked on until her retirement in May 2014. She did remain a part-time contributor for ABC for a while. Her final interview was with Presidential Candidate Donald Trump in December of 2015. She made her last public appearance in 2016.
For her work, Walters has multiple awards and accolades. In 1989, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. She received a star on the Walk of Fame in 2007. She won multiple daytime and primetime Emmy awards. Additionally, she won a Woman in Film Lucy Award and a GLAAD Excellence in Media award. In 2009, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 30th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.
Walters was a pioneer for not only women in journalism, but for the entire industry as a whole. While her retirement left a unique hole in the field, she provided over 50 years of groundbreaking, fascinating, and revealing work that made people listen, learn, and care.