Late Friday evening, ABC News confirmed the death of one of its longtime pillars, broadcasting trailblazer Barbara Walters. The television icon and first female network news anchor was 93.
Few details about the journalist’s death, including the cause, have been released.
In a tweet, the network said Walters, “shattered the glass ceiling and became a dominant force in an industry once dominated by men.”
Walters was born in 1929 in Boston. After attending Sarah Lawrence College, Walters entered the television broadcasting industry with a position as a publicity director’s assistant at a New York City NBC affiliate, according to Brittanica.
After working her way through several news jobs, Walters was ultimately named a cohost of NBC’s long-running morning show “Today,” alongside Hugh Downs in 1974. Associated Press explains Walters’ groundbreaking promotion also came with a then-unheard of $1 million salary.
Walters joined “ABC Evening News” as co-anchor in 1976, alongside veteran Harry Reasoner. It was a tense pairing that both have discussed publicly and Downs later exited the program. As Today explains, the two reunited in 1981 for an interview on ABC’s news magazine “20/20,” which Walters also served as a correspondent for beginning in the 1970s and into 2004.
Through the 1980s and 90s, Walters was known not only for her work on “20/20” — which included exclusive interviews with world leaders and movie stars alike — but also various specials she hosted for ABC, including “Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People.”
Walters became a show creator in 1997 with the launch of the still-running daytime talk show, “The View.” As outlined by the show’s original opening theme, Walters wanted to bring together different women from different walks of life to discuss the day’s current events, also known as “Hot Topics.” New year, new laws: The changes you can expect in 2023
Walters also served as one of the show’s original panelists, alongside journalist Meredith Vieira and comedian Joy Behar, the latter of whom still co-hosts the show. Walters retired from “The View” in 2014.
Disney CEO Bob Iger wrote a heartfelt tribute to the ABC icon, tweeting Friday: “I had the pleasure of calling Barbara a colleague for more than three decades, but more importantly, I was able to call her a dear friend. She will be missed by all of us at the The Walt Disney Company.”
Via Instagram, former “View” co-host Rosie O’Donnell remembered going to Broadway shows with Walters and underlined her importance in “breaking down barriers for women.”
Media legend Oprah Winfrey, who has often cited Walters as her inspiration, wrote of Walters in part: “Without Barbara Walters there wouldn’t have been me — nor any other woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news… I did my very first television audition with her in mind the whole time.”
Walters’ role as a pioneer was not one she herself was unaware of. In 2008, Walters penned her autobiography, “Audition,” which Walters explained was so named because she continually had to keep proving herself.
Despite this, Walters’ proof laid in her decades-long career and catalogue of professional honors, including multiple Emmy Award wins and an induction into the Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Of her own success, Walters said in 2004: “I never expected this! I always thought I’d be a writer for television. I never even thought I’d be in front of a camera.”
Walters is survived by her daughter Jacqueline Danforth.
AP, The HILL, Nexstar