Barbara Walters, a trailblazing television journalist who broke barriers in a male-dominated field by becoming the first American woman to anchor an evening newscast, passed away on Friday at the age of 93, according to her longtime employer ABC.
In a highly successful career that spanned five decades, Walters spoke with numerous US presidents, foreign leaders including Anwar Sadat and Fidel Castro, and A-list celebrities, becoming a touchstone of American culture in the process.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, the company that owns ABC, announced that she passed away in her New York residence.
In addition to being a pioneer for women in journalism, Barbara Walters was also a pioneer for journalism itself, according to Iger.
According to ABC, Barbara Walters won 12 Emmys during her time there, with just one exception.
Following her departure from the daytime program “The View,” which she had started in 1997, in 2014, she essentially left television.
In a field dominated by white, middle-aged males, Walters pioneered for women by developing a framework for prominent political and celebrity interviews that has since been widely imitated.
On her final appearance on “The View,” Walters remarked, “How proud I am today when I watch all the young women who are making and reporting the news.”
“If I contributed in any way to it happening, that will be my legacy.”
When she joined NBC’s breakfast news and entertainment program “Today,” her news career really got going.
When Barbara Walters joined “ABC Evening News” in 1976, she became the first woman to anchor a US evening news program and was paid a then-unprecedented salary of $1 million annually.
She started a tenure that would span more than two decades when she was selected co-host of the news magazine program “20/20” three years later.
Since Richard Nixon, Walters had spoken with every US president and first lady by the time she left television.
Leaders like Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Saddam Hussein, and Vladimir Putin were among the many people Walters spoke with, as well as celebrities like Michael Jackson, Angelina Jolie, and Harrison Ford.
Walters, a Boston native, earned an English degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York in 1953.
She temporarily held positions at NBC as a secretary and a writer before becoming the network’s first female anchor and co-host of the morning “Today” show in 1974. After two years, she would work for ABC.
After Walters’ passing was reported, condolences poured in for her.
One of the most influential figures in US media, Oprah Winfrey, remarked on Instagram, “Without Barbara Walters there wouldn’t have been me — nor any other woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news.”
“I had her in mind the entire time I was doing my very first television audition.”
Dan Rather, a seasoned news anchor, called her a “trailblazer and a true pro.”
In his tweet, he said that “the world of journalism has lost a pillar of professionalism, courage, and honesty.”
She outperformed, outwitted, and outhustled her rivals. The world was better off after she went. Her absence will be felt keenly.