Women in journalism are mourning the death of pioneering television host Barbara Walters, who died Friday at age 93 after a career dedicated to breaking barriers in a male-dominated industry.
Many women journalists praised Walters, who began her career on NBC’s “TODAY” show in 1961, becoming the show’s sole producer and first co-anchor before becoming ABC’s first female 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 that opened the door for all women in television news,” said ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer. in a sentence.
“Sadness. Gratitude. And shoutouts from all of us who know what we owe him,” added Sawyer, who previously hosted ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight” over the course of his own television career. decades. Sawyer and Walters also co-hosted “20/20” together on Sundays from 1998 to 2000.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ chief Washington correspondent and host of the “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC, said in a statement that Walters “was a role model for all women aspiring to become journalists when television news was exclusively for men.
“She was a role model for me as she carved her way onto the Today show with talent, brains, hard work and a lot of guts,” Mitchell continued. “She became a mentor and friend to me and many others lucky enough to know her. No one will be her match for getting the great interviews and asking exactly what people wanted to know.”
Several women who followed in Walters’ footsteps as co-hosts on “TODAY,” including current co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, paid tribute to her successes and their support of the women who followed her.
Guthrie posted a flashback photo of Walters at the “TODAY” host 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… led the way… pulled the gate down… so we could get through.”
“Inside Edition” host Deborah Norville, a news anchor on “TODAY” from 1989 to 1991, said in an Instagram post that Walters was “encouraged and comforted” when her career “hit a rut.”
“In later years, we would occasionally have tea and she was always full of good stories (and good gossip!)…every one of us in a television studio today can be there because Barbara was there first,” Norville wrote.
Katie Couric, who co-hosted “TODAY” from 1991 to 2006, called Walters “the OG of female announcers” in a lengthy Instagram post.
“She was as comfortable interviewing world leaders as she was with Oscar winners and her work is unparalleled,” Couric wrote.
“I was a lucky recipient of your kindness and encouragement,” Couric continued. “When I got a great (unprompted) interview with President Bush, she wrote me a note that I still have framed in my office: Dear Katie, You were fabulous with Mrs. Bush (you knew so much more than she did) and you caught the President was a real hit. You are so damn good! Bravo! Barbara”
Meredith Vieira, who moderated “The View” as one of his original co-hosts alongside Walters since 1997 until he left to co-host “TODAY” in 2006, tweeted:: “Barbara Walters paved the way for all female journalists and we will always follow in her footsteps”.
‘The world of television journalism was a man’s world’
Walters’ road to journalistic stardom was bumpy as she battled the sexism of male newscasters, experiences she openly discussed later in her career.
When the late announcer 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 until after he had asked. . Three, she said.
Her next landmark role, on ABC, where she was the first female host of a network news show, didn’t fare much better when it came to on-air sexism.
A clip circulating on social media after Walters’ death. shows her famously icy relationship with the late “ABC Evening News” co-anchor Harry Reasoner, who Walters says refused to speak to her 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 him to his first broadcast.
“I don’t want to sound sexist, as in, ‘you light up the place,’ or condescending, as in, ‘that wasn’t a bad interview,’ or fawning, as in, ‘how the hell do you do it?'” he said, as Walters walked away. laughed.
“The decision was to welcome you as I would any respected and competent colleague of either sex, noting that I have kept time on your stories and mine tonight; you owe me four minutes,” he continued before signing off.
“The world of broadcast journalism was a man’s world,” Walters said in a 2014 interview with OWNOprah 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 interrupt me, never say ‘thank you’ or ‘that’s interesting’, and we all just took it for granted,” she added. “It’s the way he thought of himself then: the so-called ‘hard news.’ A woman couldn’t do it, the audience wouldn’t accept her voice, she couldn’t go to war zones, she couldn’t ask hard questions.
“The fact that I asked the hard questions was very controversial. Some people admired it; others said, ‘she’s rude,'” Walters continued.
“On the one hand, it made me more valuable, on the other hand, I got a reputation as a ‘high-handed cookie’… if I said to a politician, ‘yes, but you didn’t answer my question.'” it sounded awful. If a man said it, it didn’t sound terrible. You know, I was the pushy one.”
‘His powerful legacy lives on’
As Walters’ career blossomed, being “the pushy one” also meant pushing other women reporters into their own seats at the anchors desk, several journalists said in their social media tributes.
ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts wrote in an Instagram post that Walters “taught me a lot and took me under her wing” after asking her to join her on ABC’s “20/20,” where Walters was a host. in 1995.
“Her powerful legacy lives on in all the women journalists who were influenced by her passionate work and powerful interviews,” Roberts wrote. (A report published last year by the Women’s Media Center found that women make up 43% of news anchors and correspondents and correspondents on weekday cable and primetime television shows).
Former “ABC World News Tonight” co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas, who became the third female anchor of an evening newscast, after Walters and Connie Chung of “CBS Evening News.” tweeted that Walters “shattered glass ceilings and blazed a trail for so many women on TV news who would follow her… like me. I’ll never forget her.”
In a statement provided to NBC News, Chung said: “Barbara battled the all-male world of broadcast journalism with her relentless drive, brains and confidence, to rise above the men. She paved my way when she made me ‘mommy’, comforting me when she ran into obstacles. No one will replace Barbara.”
Current “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell called Walters “the reason I wanted to be a journalist” and “the only woman on TV at the time interviewing presidents, prime ministers and the actors, most important authors and artists in the world”. She inspired me.”
“Good Morning America” Host Robin Roberts tweeted that Walters was “a true pioneer.”
“Forever grateful for her stellar example and friendship,” added Roberts.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Anchor, wrote on Twitter: “The enormous 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’s Chief International Correspondent called Walters “a force of nature, a trailblazer for women in this industry, and one of the most talented interviewers of all time.”
“You led the way for all of us, dear Barbara,” wrote CNN journalist Lisa Ling. “What an honor it has been to know you and to have been the beneficiary of your spirit and titanic wisdom.”
Margaret Brennan, CBS’s chief foreign affairs correspondent and the second wife to host the network’s “Face the Nation” after Lesley Stahl, posted a thank you message to the late broadcaster: “Thanks to Barbara Walters for leading the way that all of us are following…”
“Barbara Walters a real GOAT,” Gayle King, co-host of “CBS This Morning,” posted on Instagram. “She was in a class of one and all I can say at this point is thank you Barbara for so many things…”.
Cynthia McFadden, NBC News senior legal and investigative correspondent said in an Instagram post who will always remember Walters as brave.
“Every woman in broadcasting has benefited from her tough skin and bold heart,” McFadden wrote. “Imagine being told that she can’t ask a question [on “TODAY”] until the male co-host had ordered three.”
‘This is my legacy’
Walters seemed to agree that her crowning achievement was the door she opened for women in journalism and the many that followed.
On Walters’ final show on “The View” in 2014, Oprah hosted 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 your success
After hugging the women one by one, Walters took the microphone and turned to face the audience.
“I just want to say: this is my legacy,” he said.