Closing the door on a historic career, journalist and reporter Barbara Walters will sign off for the final time this coming Friday on The View, a talk show she created 17 years ago. It is Walters final wave to television altogether as she is stepping down from reporting full-time, effectively ending a 50 year career on screens all around the world.
“No one is pushing me out,” the 84-year-old shared with the New York Post on Thursday. “I’m not looking for another job, but there are other things I might want to do.”
The career of Barbara Walters began in 1961, when the then 32-year-old became the first female correspondent for the Today show. From there, she eventually moved to hosting the show in 1974 before departing to become a co-anchor the ABC Evening News in 1976. Although she had begun breaking down many doors in journalism, it was not an easy task, by any means.
“I got a tremendous amount of criticism when I was the first co-anchor of ABC Evening News,” she explained to TV Guide.” My partner, Harry Reasoner, didn’t want me, which made it very difficult.”
Barbara Walters signed off from the show only two years later. She was eventually made a general reporter for ABC News and that is where things really started to take off for her.
“I spent 10 days in Cuba for an interview with [Fidel] Castro,” she recalls among other important moments. “That was the most exciting and important time.”
Continuing her reports for ABC as well as co-anchoring the weekly news magazine 20/20 with Hugh Downs, Walters questioned many high-powered names. From political powerhouses to movie stars, world leaders like Castro and controversial figures, such as the woman who many believed nearly brought down a presidency, Monica Lewinsky. Surprisingly, she does have a few regrets over missed opportunities.
“I’ve never been able to book Queen Elizabeth or a pope,” she said to the New York Post. “I would have promised to never do another interview if I would have been able to interview Greta Garbo,” who was known to be quite reclusive. In 1997, she created The View, a talk show conceived with co-executive Bill Geddie.
“I started The View because I wanted a show with a different format,” she says. “I wanted a sense of people talking together, so it felt more like a conversation.”
Walking away from a show that has held its own for over 17 years is not the easiest to depart from. “I try not to think about it,” she admits. “Because then I wonder, ‘What do I do on May 17?'”
When Barbara Walters signs off on May 16, it will be a definitive end to a long-standing career that she is extremely proud of. A two-hour retrospective on her career entitled, Barbara Walters: Her Story, will air that evening. Although she knows the time has come to say goodbye, even Barbara Walters herself is unsure how her life will be following her departure from daily broadcast television. “I’ve always had structure, always had a schedule,” she said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like without that.”
By Jonathan Brown