Women Journalists Remember Barbara Walters: 'Her Powerful Legacy Lives On'

Women Journalists Remember Barbara Walters: ‘Her Powerful Legacy Lives On’

Women in journalism are mourning the death of television pioneer Barbara Walters, who died Friday at 93 after a career spent breaking down barriers in a male-dominated industry.

Many female journalists have praised Walters – who began her career on NBC’s “TODAY” show in 1961, becoming the show’s sole producer and first co-host before later becoming the show’s first female ABC news anchor – for breaking the glass ceiling for women in broadcast journalism and helping others succeed along the way.

“Barbara was a trailblazer, a singular force who opened the door for all women in television news,” said ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. in a report.

“Sadness. Gratitude. And a salute from all of us who know what we owe him,” added Sawyer, who previously anchored “Good Morning America” ​​and “World News Tonight” on ABC during his own career as several decades. Sawyer and Walters also co-hosted “20/20” together on Sundays from 1998 to 2000.

Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters report from London at the wedding of Prince William and Princes Kate in 2011.Donna Svennevik/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images File

Andrea Mitchell, chief correspondent for NBC News in Washington and host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC, said in a statement that Walters “was a role model for all women aspiring to become broadcast journalists when television news was exclusively for men”.

“She was a role model to me when she broke through on the Today show with talent, intelligence, hard work and a whole lot of courage,” Mitchell continued. “She became a mentor and a friend to me and so many others lucky enough to know her. No one will ever match her in getting the big interviews and asking exactly what people wanted to know.”

Several women who have followed in Walters’ footsteps as “TODAY” co-hosts — including current co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb — have paid tribute to his successes and his support for the women who have him. followed.

Guthrie posted a throwback photo of Walters at the “TODAY” anchor desk with the caption, “Thank you, Barbara. you showed the way. you made it possible for the rest of us.

Kotb wrote that Walters “was the first…she led the way – she kicked down the door…so we could walk through.”

“Inside Edition” anchor Deborah Norville, a news anchor on “TODAY” from 1989 to 1991, said in an Instagram post that Walters was “encouraging and consoling” when her career “hit a pothole.”

“Later we sometimes had tea and it was always full of good stories (and good gossip!)…every one of us in a TV studio today can be there because Barbara was there first,” wrote Norville.

Katie Couric, who co-hosted “TODAY” from 1991 to 2006, called Walters “the OG of female broadcasters” in a lengthy Instagram post.

“She was just as comfortable interviewing world leaders as she was an Oscar winner and her work is unparalleled,” Couric wrote.

“I was lucky to benefit from his kindness and encouragement,” Couric continued. “When I landed a big (improvised) interview with President Bush, she wrote me a note that I always framed in my office: Dear Katie, you were wonderful with Mrs. Bush (you knew a lot more than her) and you caught the president was a real coup. You’re so good! Bravo! Barbarian”

Meredith Vieira, who hosted “The View” as one of its original co-hosts alongside Walters from 1997 until she left to co-host “TODAY” in 2006, tweeted“Barbara Walters paved the way for every journalist and we will always follow in her footsteps.”

“The world of television journalism was a man’s world”

Walters’ path to journalistic stardom was a bumpy one as she struggled with the sexism of male broadcasters – experiences she discussed openly later in her career.

When the late broadcaster Frank McGee joined “TODAY” as co-host in 1971 — three years before Walters was officially named co-host — he instituted a new rule: In interviews, she couldn’t ask a question. only after asking for three, she said.

Joe Garagiola, Barbara Walters, Frank McGee and Frank Blair on the set of TODAY
Joe Garagiola, Barbara Walters, Frank McGee and Frank Blair on the set of TODAY in 1971.NBC/NBC NewsWire

Her next landmark role — at ABC, where she was the first female anchor of a network news program — wasn’t much better when it came to on-air sexism.

A clip circulating on social media after Walters’ death shows his famously frosty relationship with the late “ABC Evening News” co-anchor Harry Reasoner, who Walters said refused to speak to him off-air, New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote in 2011.

In the clip, Reasoner says he “had a little trouble thinking of what to say” to welcome her to her first show.

“To not sound sexist, as in ‘you’re brightening up the place’, or condescending, as in ‘that wasn’t a bad interview’, or sycophantic, as in ‘how the hell do you do that ?” he said, as Walters laughed.

“The decision was to welcome you as I would any respected and competent colleague of any gender, noting that I have kept time on your stories and mine tonight – you owe me four minutes,” he continued before signing.

Harry Reasoner and Barbara Barbara on the ABC Evening News set
Harry Reasoner and Barbara Barbara on the ABC Evening News set in 1976. AP file

“The world of TV journalism used to be a man’s world,” Walters said in a 2014 interview with OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, adding that “it’s no secret, for example, that I had difficulties with… [late “ABC Evening News” co-anchor] Peter Jennings.”

“He would cut me off, he would never say ‘thank you’ or ‘that’s interesting’, and we all took that for granted,” she added. “That’s the way it was thought of at the time – the so-called ‘tough news’. A woman couldn’t do it, the public didn’t accept her voice, she couldn’t go to the areas of war, she couldn’t ask the hard questions.

“The fact that I asked the tough questions was something that was very controversial. Some people admired her, others said ‘she’s being rude,'” Walters continued.

“On the one hand it made me more valuable, on the other I got a reputation for being an ‘arrogant cookie’…if I said to a politician, ‘yes, but you don’t have didn’t answer my question’, it sounded terrible. If a man said it, it didn’t sound terrible. You know, I was the one who insisted.

“His powerful legacy lives on”

As Walters’ career blossomed, being “the most pushy” also meant pushing other female reporters to sit at the anchor desk, multiple reporters said in their social media tributes.

ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts wrote in an Instagram post that Walters “taught me so much and took me under her wing” after she asked him to join her on ABC’s “20/20,” where Walters was a presenter, in 1995.

“Her powerful legacy lives on among all female journalists who have been influenced by her passionate work and searing interviews,” Roberts wrote. (A report released last year by the Women’s Media Center found that women make up 43% of news anchors and correspondents in weekday and prime-time cable television.)

Former ‘ABC World News Tonight’ co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas – who became the third female evening news anchor, after Walters and Connie Chung of ‘CBS Evening News’ – tweeted that Walters “shattered glass ceilings and paved the way for so many women in the TV news to follow her…like me. I’ll never forget that.”

In a statement provided to NBC News, Chung said, “Barbara fought the boy-only world of television journalism with her tireless drive, intelligence and confidence – to dominate the men. She paved my way by “momming” me, consoling me when I reached roadblocks. No one will replace Barbara.”

Current ‘CBS Evening News’ anchor Norah O’Donnell called Walters “the reason I wanted to be a reporter” and “the only woman on television at the time who interviewed presidents, prime ministers and the world’s most important actors, authors and artists. . She inspired me.”

“Good Morning America” ​​Presenter, Robin Roberts tweeted that Walters was “a true pioneer”.

“Forever grateful for her stellar example and for her friendship,” Roberts added.

Christiane Amanpour, international anchor of CNN, wrote on Twitter“The massive work of Barbara Walters will not be replicated and her legend will remain firmly etched on the Mount Rushmore of our profession.”

Clarissa Ward, CNN Chief International Correspondent called Walters “a force of nature, a trailblazer for women in this industry, and one of the most gifted interviewers of all time.”

“You paved the way for us all, dear Barbara,” wrote CNN reporter Lisa Ling. “What an honor it was to know you and to have benefited from your titanic wit and wisdom.”

Margaret Brennan, CBS’s chief foreign affairs correspondent and the second woman to host the network’s “Face the Nation” show after Lesley Stahl, posted a thank you message to the late broadcaster: “Thank you Barbara Walters for leading the way we are all on…”

“Barbara Walters a real goat,” posted “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King on Instagram. “She was in a class of one and all I can say right now is thank you Barbara for so many things….”

NBC News senior legal and investigative correspondent Cynthia McFadden said in an Instagram post that she will always remember Walters as brave.

“Every woman in broadcasting has benefited from her thick skin and bold heart,” McFadden wrote. “Imagine being told she couldn’t ask questions [on “TODAY”] until the male co-host asked for three.”

“It’s my legacy”

Led by Oprah, 25 female journalists influenced by Barbara Walters say goodbye to her during her final appearance as co-host
Led by Oprah, 25 female journalists influenced by Barbara Walters said goodbye to her during her final appearance as co-host of “The View” in 2014.Ida Mae Astute/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images File

Walters seemed to agree that her greatest achievement was the door she opened for women in journalism and the many who followed her.

During Walters’ last show on “The View” in 2014, Oprah presented a surprise parade of female journalists – including Sawyer, Couric, Guthrie, Kotb, Vieira, McFadden and others – who took the stage to thank Walters for paving the way for their success.

After embracing the women one by one, Walters took the microphone and turned back to the audience.

“I just want to say — it’s my legacy,” she said.

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