Biography of Barbara Walters

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  • Topic: Barbara Walters, NBC, Bill Clinton
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  • Published : September 25, 2010
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Television journalist. Born September 25, 1931, in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of nightclub impresario Lou Walters (owner of New York's swanky Latin Quarter) and his wife, Dena. In 1937, Lou Walters expanded his business, which caused his family to adopt an itinerant lifestyle, moving from Boston to New York to Miami Beach. Walters attended the all-female Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, graduating in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Her first job was as the assistant to the publicity director of WRCA-TV (a local NBC affiliate). After sharpening her writing and producing skills at NBC, Walters moved to CBS, where she wrote material for the network’s Morning Show cast. In 1961, Walters returned to NBC, where she was a researcher and writer for the popular Today show. Initially, she worked behind the scenes on news stories that were slanted toward female viewers. However, within a few months she was offered a breakthrough assignment that required her to travel to India and Pakistan with the then-first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. By 1964, Walters became a staple at Today, earning the nickname “Today girl.” She remained on the show for 11 years, during which she honed her trademark (probing yet casual) interviewing technique. By 1972, she established herself as a competent journalist and was chosen to be part of the press core that accompanied President Nixon on his historic trip to China. Enticed by an unprecedented $1 million annual salary, Walters accepted a job at ABC. She debuted as the first woman coanchor of a network evening news program in October 1976. Walters’ male colleagues were openly critical of her position and salary. Among the most outspoken were Walter Cronkite and Walters’ own ABC coanchor Harry Reasoner. Critics also remained skeptical of Walters’ validity as a credible journalist. Furthermore, because of her slight lisp, Walters was famously parodied as “Baba Wawa” on Saturday Night Live by the late comedian Gilda Radner. In December 1976, Walters launched the first Barbara Walters Special, which featured President and First Lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. The following year, she set precedent by arranging the first joint interview with Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. In 1979, Walters became a part-time correspondent for the ABC news magazine program 20/20. She scored an exclusive interview with Richard Nixon in 1980 (his first TV interview since his resignation in 1974). In 1981, Walters’ perennial pre-Oscar interview program premiered (with actress Katharine Hepburn), and, in 1984, she signed on as 20/20’s full-time cohost.In 1995, Walters conducted the first interview with Christopher Reeve after the horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed. The following April, the broadcast received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award. Walters next endeavor was as co-executive producer and cohost of The View — a mid-morning talk show that premiered in August 1997. The program showcased the unique perspectives of five different women, including Chinese-American reporter Lisa Ling, 26; African-American attorney Star Jones, 38; Portuguese-American journalist and working mother Meredith Vieira, 46; and Italian-American comedian Joy Behar, 54. In 1999, Walters’ two-hour-long exclusive with the former White House intern and Bill Clinton paramour Monica Lewinsky made broadcasting history as the highest-rated news program ever broadcast on a single network. Her other notable interviews range from controversial figures like Jack Kevorkian to political leaders like Fidel Castro. Currently, Walters holds the notable distinction of having interviewed every U.S. President since Richard Nixon. She is also acclaimed for her ability to elicit candid interviews from a bevy of celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Sophia Loren, Richard Pryor, and...
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