Barbara Walters may be leaving our television screens next year. The legendary television personality is reportedly retiring in 2014, and leaving her co-created show, The View after co-hosting it for 17 seasons.
While the news remains unconfirmed, Walters is expected to make the announcement herself and will stay on The View through next season during which ABC will make many tributes to her career.
Walter’s retirement isn’t much of a surprise though. She’s joked about retiring, most notably, during her 2011 interview with President Barack Obama. At the time an ABC news spokesperson responded, “Barbara has joked she is retiring every year since the Clinton administration.” She’s also had a tough year in terms of her health–suffering from a bad fall to a terrible case of the chicken pox.
Her fellow journalists admit that they don’t want to see Walters go. Connie Chung, another landmark female broadcast journalist, refuses to believe that Walters will actually retire.
I refuse to believe that Barbara’s going to retire. If I have a vote, I’m going to tell her: not acceptable.
While Chung admits that she and Walters were at times competitive, it was merely the nature of the game. Walters would send Chung congratulatory letters post-interviews and they developed a mentor/mentee relationship. Chung cites Walters as a “tremendous influence” upon her. When she first met Walters, Chung described her as “bigger than life to me.”
Walters really is bigger than life. She has singlehandedly trailblazed the broadcast journalism path for women. Starting out as a writer/research at NBC’s The Today Show in 1961, Walters became a “Today Girl” handling “women’s interest” pieces and the weather. That led Walters to become a reporter-at-large where she wrote, edited and developed all her own stories.
She had great relationships with her co-workers including host Hugh Downs. With her excellent interviewing skills, Walters gained more air time. When Downs left in 1971, Frank McGee replaced him and he was much less welcoming to Walters. When McGee died in 1974, Walters was named co-host of The Today Show, the first woman to hold the position.
In 1976, Walters continued on her trailblazing path and became the first woman co-anchor of any evening news program with her new job at ABC Evening News.
Walters has worked on ABC news shows like 20/20, contributed to ABC news and hosted her own (and now infamous) interview specials. She has interviewed every president and first lady since Nixon, world leaders and celebrities. Her interview with Monica Lewinsky had the highest ratings of any television interview ever. Walters has a lifetime contract with ABC which she likes to bring up during contentious meetings. She co-created The View in 1997, and shares 50/50 ownership which is extremely rare for a daytime television show.
Walters has truly been a pioneer of the field, making huge strides and clearing the way for more women to succeed in broadcast journalism. While we will certainly miss Walters and her infectious energy on our television screens, we are excited to see the many women following in her footsteps on the small screen.
Barbara Walters Set to Retire in 2014 (The Hollywood Reporter)