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Pioneering TV journalist Barbara Walters signs off

Pioneering TV journalist Barbara Walters signs off

On May 16, 2014, broadcast journalist and TV personality Barbara Walters retires from ABC News and as co-host of the daytime program “The View.” In a landmark career that spanned some 50 years on air, the 84-year-old Walters blazed a trail for women in TV news. On Walter’s May 16th “View” sendoff, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric were among the more than two dozen female broadcasters who appeared on the show to pay tribute to the legendary newswoman.

Born in Boston on September 25, 1929, Walters, whose father was a night club owner, grew up in Massachusetts, New York City and Miami. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Walters worked as a TV writer and producer in New York before joining NBC’s “The Today Show” in 1961 as a writer and, eventually, on-air reporter. In 1974, she was named an official co-host of the program, the first woman to hold the job. Two years later, Walters became the first woman to co-anchor a nightly network newscast, earning a record $1 million a year. However, after experiencing tension with her “ABC Evening News” co-host, Harry Reasoner, and low ratings, Walters left the program in 1978. From 1984 to 2004, she was a co-host and producer of the TV newsmagazine “20/20.” Additionally, in 1997, she created “The View,” co-hosting the program from its inception until her retirement.

Best known for her interviews, over the decades Walters went one-on-one with American presidents (she interrogated every commander in chief from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama), world leaders, movie stars, convicted killers and scores of other newsmakers. In 1977, she convinced Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to submit to their first joint interview, and that same year she also traveled to Cuba for a headline-making sit down with dictator Fidel Castro. In 2001, she interviewed President Vladimir Putin of Russia and asked whether he’d ever ordered anyone killed (he said “nyet”). She also conducted interviews with such notorious figures as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Moammar Qadaffi and Syria’s Bashir al Assad. In 1999, Monica Lewinsky, whose affair with President Bill Clinton led to his impeachment, gave her first TV interview to Walters; a record-breaking 74 million viewers tuned in, making it the highest-rated news program ever broadcast by a single network.

Walters, who interviewed almost every major Hollywood celebrity, also earned a reputation for skillfully asking probing questions that made a number of her famous subjects tear up. However, one question Walters had a tough time living down occurred during a 1981 on-air conversation with Katharine Hepburn. After the actress compared herself to a tree, Walters said, “What kind of tree are you, if you think you’re a tree?”

On May 13, 2013, Walters announced that after more than half a century in TV, she would retire the following year. Shortly before the acclaimed journalist made her official farewell on “The View” in May 2014, her longtime employer, ABC, honored her by naming its news headquarters in New York City the Barbara Walters Building.


TV journalist Barbara Walters announces retirement date

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pioneering American TV journalist Barbara Walters, who was the first woman to co-anchor an evening news program, will make her final television appearance on the morning talk show "The View" next month, the network ABC said on Monday.

Walters' last day as a co-host on the all-women talk show she created in 1997 will be on May 16. The network, a unit of Walt Disney Co., will also air a two-hour evening special focusing on her career and her life on the same day.

"In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters," Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement.

"She broke barriers, defied convention, made history and set the standard for journalistic excellence for more than 50 years. It's hard to imagine television without her," he added.

In honor of her many years on television, the ABC News headquarters in New York will be named for her in a dedication ceremony this spring and "The View" will host a week-long celebration of her career.

"Her influence on television, and American culture, will resonate for decades to come," Anne Sweeney, the president of Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement.

Walters, 84, announced her plans to retire from television nearly a year ago in a tearful appearance on "The View," saying she was healthy and it was her decision to step down.

"This is what I want to do," she said. "I've had an amazing career."

Walters has suffered from health problems recently, including a concussion after she fainted and hit her head last year and a bout of chickenpox. In 2010, she had open heart surgery.

Since announcing her retirement, she hosted "20 Years of the 10 Most Fascinating People," the final show of her yearly special program about intriguing personalities.

During her long career, Walters was known for her interviews on U.S. television with world leaders including Cuba's Fidel Castro, Britain's Margaret Thatcher, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon.

She also interviewed celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise.

Walters began her career in television journalism in 1961 as a writer for NBC's "Today" morning news show and later became the first woman to co-host.

She broke more ground in 1976 when she joined ABC and became the first woman to co-anchor an evening news broadcast on any U.S. network. Walters has also worked as a producer and host of the ABC news magazine "20/20" and as a correspondent for ABC News.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney Editing by Eric Kelsey and James Dalgleish)


How Barbara Walters Changed Everything

Barbara Walters, who is retiring after 50 years in television today, has had the kind of career that sends writers to their thesauruses, scrabbling around to find another synonym for "legendary" or "pioneering" or "iconic." The scope of her professional life is nearly impossible to sum up coherently. But let's try.

Television news looks the way it does today in large part because of her. She was one of the first people to so fully fuse journalism and celebrity, often looming larger in her interviews than the people she was talking to. And, most importantly, women are taken seriously on TV because people like her battled their way through a deeply sexist world. Walters was the first, and, because she triumphed, there will never be another like her.

Walters herself certainly never intended to make it in television, though she was born into a showbiz family. Her father, Lou, was a nightclub owner who, after several failures, finally managed to open a successful club called the Latin Quarter. Walters' mother was a housewife, and she had a sister, Jackie, who was mentally disabled. (She would later name her adopted daughter Jackie.)

After college, Walters managed to finagle a job at a local NBC station as a PR staffer, before being made a producer. She told an interviewer in 2000 that her first appearance on television came when a model dropped out and she had to fill in during a swimsuit demonstration.

Her career had one of its many strokes of luck when the sole female writer on "Today" left the show. (The thought of having more than one woman writer was anathema.) Walters was hired in her place in 1961, gradually moving to a more prominent on-camera reporting role. She did a segment dressed as a Playboy Bunny, among other things.

She joined the hosting crew on "Today" in 1964, when then-"Today Girl" (for that is what the female hosts on the show were called) Maureen O'Sullivan was deemed incapable of handling political material. From then on, Walters' fame soared.

None other than Gloria Steinem paid tribute to her in 1965: "The shift from the old 'Today Girl'—who was usually a coffee-server and amiable lightweight—to Barbara Walters is the television industry's change of attitude in microcosm."

Not everything had changed, though the Boston Globe could still get away with calling her "the longest-running girl interviewer and story-getter the 'Today' show has ever had" in 1968. (She was 39.) For the majority of her time on "Today," Walters wasn't even called a co-host of the program in the early 70s, the New York Times referred to her as "a prominent if supportive member of the 'Today' cast." But it also noted that she was "the only woman in television to occupy such an exalted position on a regular network program of news and commentary."

Her stature grew as the decade progressed, and by 1974, she became the first female co-host on "Today." She stayed until 1976, having interviewed everyone from Henry Kissinger to Judy Garland:

She also did something no "Today" anchor would ever do now (at least, not so blatantly): commercials.

If she had quit in 1976, Walters' status as a television superstar would have been secure. She reigned supreme at "Today," and had already interviewed an eye-popping gallery of people.

And, of course, she had been immortalized in pop culture fame by Gilda Radner's "Baba Wawa" impersonation on "Saturday Night Live." Walters initially hated the mockery, but came around eventually:

But Walters' notoriety increased immensely when ABC poached her for the then-stunning salary of $1 million a year to co-host the "ABC Evening News" with Harry Reasoner, who made it clear that he'd rather keep hosting the show by himself. He also sniffily opined that a female network news anchor "may well be an idea whose time has come."

Walters instantly became the highest-paid journalist on television — ever. The salary, and her past on the fluffy "Today," caused an outbreak of scandalized tut-tutting in the press: was this the news industry's surrender to the world of Hollywood? (Given the fact that anchors today routinely earn anywhere between 10 and 20 million dollars, the shock seems a little quaint.)

Walter Cronkite publicly said that he had initially found Walters' salary "sickening," adding, "Her background is not what I'd called well-rounded, but who is to say that there is only one route to a career in journalism?"

But there was also excitement Time magazine called the hiring "the furthest advance of the women's movement in television."

The pairing, however, was a legendary disaster. "They would all sit and talk about how terrible I was," Walters told an interviewer decades later.

Watching this clip from Election Night in 1976, the mismatch is clear. Walters and Reasoner might as well be in two different rooms.

Within two years, Walters left nightly news, never to return. That medium was probably too confining for her, anyway. She instead concentrated on the thing that had made her famous: interviews. They poured forth, a never-ending gallery of the iconic and the fleetingly famous. On "20/20," in her "Barbara Walters Specials," her "Most Fascinating People" episodes, and on and on, she spoke to seemingly everyone who ever reached any place of even the most minor prominence in public life. . Walters was an infamously tough competitor who based a huge portion of her reputation on her ability to secure the big "get" of the day. Her style—not too soft, not too hard—proved just the ticket, and her batting average was fearsomely high.

A few interviews have inevitably been selected by general consensus as standouts. For instance, Fidel Castro sat down with her, twice.

And she famously got Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin to do a joint interview with her. It was seen as a momentous occasion she beat Cronkite's own interview with the two men to the punch by mere moments. As she recounted in her memoir, Cronkite could be heard saying to Sadat and Begin, "Did Barbara get anything I didn't get?" She always said it was the interview she was proudest of.

Then, of course, there was her interview with Monica Lewinsky—the highest-rated interview in TV history. Its opening question is perhaps the ultimate distillation of the Walters technique: "You have been described as a bimbo, a stalker, a seductress. Describe yourself." Not too soft, but not too hard. She has asked a version of the same question to many, many people, always finishing by asking them to give their side of their story.

Her scores of interviews with entertainers, her unapologetic embrace of many of them—"Frankly, I'm crazy about Dolly Parton!"—and her uncanny ability to get them to cry drew inevitable brow-furrowing and accusations that she went for the emotional angle over the more substantive one. She developed a standard sort of response—one that noted the often gendered aspects of these critiques.

"No one questions Mike Wallace when he does [Barbra] Streisand and then does a very serious interview with Colin Powell," she said once.

She did, however, admit that her question to Katharine Hepburn about the tree was probably an error.

Walters also drew fire for her unabashedly insider approach to journalism. She moved in very powerful circles, and never hid her closeness to some of the people she covered, as this passage from her memoirs about a dinner party she threw in the late 70s makes clear:

Among the guests were Katharine Graham, Ben Bradlee, and Sally Quinn the humorist Art Buchwald President Carter’s close adviser Hamilton Jordan Carter’s press secretary, Jody Powell Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski the outgoing secretary of state, Henry Kissinger and my old friend Bill Safire, by then a columnist at the New York Times. I also asked Sam Donaldson, our incomparable White House correspondent, Peter Jennings, and about thirty others.

Sometimes, these associations have gotten her into trouble in 2012, she was forced to apologize after it was revealed that she had attempted to secure a place at Columbia University for an aide to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whom she had interviewed months earlier.

Much of the criticism of Walters has died down, though, if only because everyone else raced to do the kinds of things she was doing. These days, nobody bats an eye when journalists flit between hard and soft news, or show up on entertainment programs, or get paid millions of dollars for their work.

Not that Walters rested on her laurels. When many others would have long since packed it in, Walters launched "The View," a show that spawned a host of imitators, became something of a political powerhouse and kept her in the cultural eye for nearly another two decades. Oh, and got her talking about things like (eep!) vibrators:

Moreover, she never stopped trying to get the scoop. It is a testament to her nature that, mere days before retirement, she was on a plane to Los Angeles, trying to beat out the competition on the Donald Sterling scandal.

Now, at 84, Walters has decided to step away from the limelight, though she has stressed that she will come back from time to time. While it's uncertain what she'll do with the rest of her life, what is clear is that her career will never be replicated. The media world is too fractured for anyone to hold the spotlight in the way that she did. The audience appetite for in-depth interviews has waned. And the barriers are no longer there to be broken, because she already broke them.


Journalism icon Walters to sign off

Trailblazing US television journalist Barbara Walters, famed for her political and celebrity interviews in a career spanning more than half-a-century, is to retire next month, the ABC network confirmed on Monday.

Walters, 84, who had already confirmed she would retire this year, will bring down the curtain on 53 years of broadcasting when she co-hosts her chat show The View for the last time on Friday, May 16.

“In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters,” Robert A Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said.

“It’s impossible to fully convey her impact and influence on television. She broke barriers, defied convention, made history and set the standard for journalistic excellence for more than 50 years.

“It’s hard to imagine television without her.”

Walters joined ABC in 1976, becoming the first female anchor of an evening news programme.

ABC said on Monday its New York headquarters would be renamed in her honour to reflect her pioneering career.

A two-hour special charting her career is to be screened by ABC on the night she steps down.

Walters began her career in 1961 at NBC’s breakfast news and entertainment programme Today, making a household name for herself before her groundbreaking move to ABC.

In 1997, she launched The View, a daytime talk show pitched at women of diverse backgrounds featuring an all-female panel discussing issues of the day.

Such is its reach that it is a must-visit stop for US presidential candidates. Over the years Walters has interviewed leaders like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin (side-by-side for the first time) and every US president and first lady since Richard Nixon.

She also made her name interviewing a raft of Hollywood celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Justin Bieber. – Sapa-AFP


Barbara Walters signs off from "The View" in style

Barbara Walters spent her final day on "The View" surrounded by many familiar faces -- from Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey to Michael Douglas, along with other surprise guests.

Walters, who began her TV career on NBC's "Today" show in 1962, launched "The View" 17 years ago, and in 2013, the 84-year-old journalist decided it was time to retire as co-host of the show (though she'll have a behind-the-scenes presence as executive producer).

And not surprisingly, the trailblazing TV host departed "The View" in style, leaving a lasting imprint on journalism, television and women.

Barbara Walters says goodbye to daily television with her final co-host appearance on "The View." ABC

During her visit to the daytime talk show, which taped Thursday in New York, Clinton spoke about women and making choices in life -- from marriage to having children. "The most important thing is how we treat each other and how we think about the future. That means we have to be kinder. more empathetic. It all starts at home. with who you are a person," said Clinton, who was also there to promote her new book, "Hard Choices."

"I thank you for coming on. It was a surprise," said Walters, the first-ever female network TV host.

Douglas spoke about Walters' interviewing skills, noting that she treated him (as a young actor) the same as she would presidents and dignitaries.

Walters' co-hosts also managed to slip in a question about Douglas' personal life. Last year, Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, announced they were taking a break. But after stepping out together recently, the ladies wanted to know if that's still the case. "We're good. I think if both parties want to work it out, it works out," he said.

Trending News

Winfrey came out next, saying, "Of course I'm here. to celebrate what you've meant to me. You have literally meant the world to me."

"I want to thank you for being a pioneer. to pave the road we all walk on," she continued. "I want to thank you for the courage it took to get up every day and sit in that chair. And I thank you for the stamina. You're really the reason why we're all here."

And they really were all there. Women journalists from all decades and networks joined the stage, including Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Gayle King, Savannah Guthrie, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung and countless others.

"This is my legacy. these are my legacy," said Walters as she looked around at the women.

"Now having had this amazing career. how do I walk away and say goodbye?" Walters said.

"Who knows what the future brings? Maybe instead of saying goodbye I should say 'a bientot,' which in French means see you later," she added.

Then joking about not being able to leave the set without a plug, Walters fittingly promoted Friday's two-hour special celebrating her life and legacy, which will air on ABC at 9 p.m. ET. She hasn't seen it yet, but heard "it's wonderful."

"When all that is done, I can take a deep breath and enjoy my life," she said.


Notable Interviews

/>Connie Chung, Barbara Walters (2002), (Theo Wargo/WireImage)

One of the areas of her job that Walters excelled in was interviewing &mdash something that became apparent early on and on which she was able to spend decades perfecting. Over the course of her more than six-decade-long career, Walters interviewed everyone from celebrities to heads of state.

Notable interviewees include the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his empress wife Farah Pahlavi, Russian president Boris Yeltsin, and later, Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher, Fidel Castro, Libyan politician Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. She also interviewed every single president of the United States from Richard Nixon through to Barack Obama, and although she's interviewed Donald Trump before, it was before he became the president.

Praised for her skills in getting people to open up, Walters truly found her forte in interviewing. So much so that when her interview with former White House-aide Monica Lewinsky was airing, she was at home with friends and looked out to 5th Avenue, only to comment that there was no traffic, before one of her producers said, "That&rsquos because everyone is home watching the interview." That interview broke records as 70 million people tuned in, making it the second most-watched television interview in American and British history, coming in after Oprah's 1993 interview with Michael Jackson.


U.S TV journalist Barbara Walters bids farewell after 53-year career

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Pioneering U.S. journalist Barbara Walters, who paved the way for women in television news and was the first female to co-anchor a network evening news program, retired today after an illustrious 53-year career.

The 84-year-old TV newswoman bid farewell on “The View,” the morning talk show she created in 1997 during a career that spanned events ranging from President Richard Nixon’s historic journey to China in 1972 to interviews with several generations of celebrities and world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama.

Walters, whose work won several Emmy awards, joked that she would now have time to have Botox and may be available for supermarket openings. On a serious note, she added that she was proudest of how more women are now reporting the news.

“If I did anything to help that happen that is my legacy,” she said. “Who knows what the future brings? Maybe instead of goodbye, I should say a bientot, which in French means see you later.”

A roster of women journalists joined Walters on the show to praise her achievements. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also appeared, as did actor Michael Douglas and TV host and media company owner Oprah Winfrey.

“Like everyone else I want to thank you for being a pioneer, in everything that word means,” Winfrey told Walters. “It means being the first … to knock down the door, to break down the barrier, to pave the road that we all walk on.”

The show culminated a week of events including a get-together in New York that included former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, director Woody Allen and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

The news building of the ABC television network, a unit of Walt Disney Co., was named in her honor. Present and past co-hosts of “The View” reunited to toast her on Thursday. ABC will also air a news special about her story on Friday evening.

Walters revealed her plans to retire a year earlier saying it was her decision. The announcement followed some health problems, including a concussion after fainting and hitting her head, chickenpox and open heart surgery in 2010.

Walters has interviewed every U.S. president since Richard Nixon and world leaders including Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Britain’s Margaret Thatcher and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. She was famous for her probing style, getting that important first interview with newsmakers.

She was also known for a lisp that prompted the famous “Baba Wawa” parody by the late comedian Gilda Radner on the “Saturday Night Live,” comedy show.

Walters was hired as a researcher and writer on NBC’s “Today” show in 1961 before becoming a co-host in 1974. She moved to ABC in 1976 and was a also correspondent on the network’s news magazine show 󈬄/20.” Walters also hosted specials and a yearly show about her 10 most fascinating people.


Awards

During her impressive career, Walters has been honored with many awards, among them the Overseas Press Club&aposs highest award, the President&aposs Award, in 1988 induction into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 the Lowell Thomas Award for a career in journalism excellence in 1990, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women&aposs Media Foundation, in 1991 the Muse Award from New York Women in Film and Television in 1997 the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2000 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007, as well as 34 daytime and primetime Emmy Awards. Walters has also received honorary doctoral degrees from Ben-Gurion University in Jerusalem, Hofstra University, Marymount College, Ohio State University, Sarah Lawrence College, Temple University and Wheaton College.


As Larry King signs off, a pioneering voice echoes

Larry King, pictured with Condoleezza Rice, interviewed people from all walks of life: the rich and powerful, spiritual leaders — even convicted murderers.

Former tabloid editor Piers Morgan, center, will assume Larry King's CNN time slot in January.

Larry King doesn’t have a reputation for getting people to cry in the way that, say, Barbara Walters does.

He was not known for sharp interviewing skills the way Mike Wallace was but always seemed willing to ask anything, informed or not.

You rarely caught King on the scene of breaking news events, unlike Dan Rather back in the day or Anderson Cooper now. Journalism wasn’t really his thing. He was more comfortable with celebrity shmoozing.

And nobody accused King of breaking new pop-culture ground &mdash or even being particularly well grounded in it. He once asked Jerry Seinfeld whether his show had been canceled. Seinfeld was appalled &mdash “Do you know who I am?” &mdash and called for a copy of his resume for the host. Then there was the time King addressed Ringo Starr as “George” during an interview.

Yet King, 76, is phenomenally well-liked in celebrity circles, beloved by colleagues, followed closely by loyal viewers and, judging by his tenure and salary, valued by employers.

When he hangs up his suspenders after 25 years on CNN this week, he will leave a nightly hole for a (shrinking) segment of the audience, and a remarkable legacy.

King’s last live show is Thursday. Guests are to be announced Monday producers plan a send-off featuring numerous celebrities. “It’s a lot of moving parts,” said a CNN spokesman.

Irishman Piers Morgan, former tabloid editor and reality show judge who takes over the time slot in January, rightly hails King as “an institution.”

“It’s like following Sinatra at Vegas,” Morgan has said. “No one remembers that guy’s name.”

What interview sticks in memory? In 2007, during extensive tributes to King’s 50th anniversary in broadcasting, CNN hailed King’s NAFTA debate between then-Vice President Al Gore and Ross Perot in 1993 as the record-setter for the cable industry and a high point in CNN history, drawing more than 16 million viewers. But that’s not one that jumps to mind.

Presidents and kings, convicted murderers and celebrity divorcees, singers, athletes, politicians and spiritual leaders have all faced his microphone. Think Elizabeth Taylor, the Dalai Lama, the O.J. car chase or Prince, not NAFTA.

Perhaps King was at his best serving as national grief counselor and shiva host before, during and after celebrity passings. Speculation on unresolved murders or suicides was his subspecialty, and over the years he allowed all manner of barely connected acquaintances of the deceased to weigh in. The televised wake he held for Michael Jackson lingers in memory. There’s Liza Minelli, sharing memories with Larry, the two of them alternately leading a grieving globe and bonding as pals who might have been talking privately on the phone, except that millions of us were eavesdropping.

The much-married and aged King is the butt of jokes that are themselves getting old.

But give him his due: After a long run in radio, King remade the prime-time TV landscape. The designation of the first worldwide live phone-in talk show now sounds quaint. But it truly was different. His title as the “Muhammad Ali of the broadcast interview” &mdash or was it the Cassius Clay of the cable studio? &mdash also rings of an earlier era. He’s the telegraph operator still clacking away in the Internet age. The reliably monotonous maker of small talk in these Twitter times.

TV’s low-res Walter Winchell holdover in a high-def age.

Past his sell-by date, he’s talking about what to do next. First up, he’s going into the bagel business. Seriously. He’s the national spokesman for the Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., now branching out to the West.

He may be signing off a tad late, but what he gave the TV world was more than consistent company. It was the electronic gossip over the back fence that, for better and worse, helped define the national conversation for a quarter century.


Barbara Walters Reveals Her Final ‘View’ Broadcast, Official Date of TV Retirement

ABC will use that Friday as a day of celebrations and tributes to the 84-year-old journalist, who joined the network in 1976 and became the first female anchor on an evening news program. She later became the co-host of ABC’s 󈬄/20” and launched “The View,” an all-women roundtable talk program, in 1997.

Fittingly, the network will air a two-hour, primetime special in her honor on the day she signs off from “The View,” and at some point this spring, will name its New York City news headquarters in her honor.

“In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters,” Disney CEO and Chairman Robert Iger said in a statement. “She’s a dear friend and colleague as well as someone I deeply admire, and it’s impossible to fully convey her impact and influence on television. She broke barriers, defied convention, made history and set the standard for journalistic excellence for more than 50 years. It’s hard to imagine television without her.”

Walters will continue to contribute to ABC News as events warrant, the network said.


U.S. TV journalist Barbara Walters announces retirement date

NEW YORK, April 7 (Reuters) - Pioneering American TV journalist Barbara Walters, who was the first woman to co-anchor an evening news program, will make her final television appearance on the morning talk show "The View" next month, the network ABC said on Monday.

Walters' last day as a co-host on the all-women talk show she created in 1997 will be on May 16. The network, a unit of Walt Disney Co., will also air a two-hour evening special focusing on her career and her life on the same day.

"In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters," Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement.

"She broke barriers, defied convention, made history and set the standard for journalistic excellence for more than 50 years. It's hard to imagine television without her," he added.

In honor of her many years on television, the ABC News headquarters in New York will be named for her in a dedication ceremony this spring and "The View" will host a week-long celebration of her career.

"Her influence on television, and American culture, will resonate for decades to come," Anne Sweeney, the president of Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement.

Walters, 84, announced her plans to retire from television nearly a year ago in a tearful appearance on "The View," saying she was healthy and it was her decision to step down.

"This is what I want to do," she said. "I've had an amazing career."

Walters has suffered from health problems recently, including a concussion after she fainted and hit her head last year and a bout of chickenpox. In 2010, she had open heart surgery.

Since announcing her retirement, she hosted "20 Years of the 10 Most Fascinating People," the final show of her yearly special program about intriguing personalities.

During her long career, Walters was known for her interviews on U.S. television with world leaders including Cuba's Fidel Castro, Britain's Margaret Thatcher, Saddam Hussein of Iraq and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon.

She also interviewed celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise.

Walters began her career in television journalism in 1961 as a writer for NBC's "Today" morning news show and later became the first woman to co-host.

She broke more ground in 1976 when she joined ABC and became the first woman to co-anchor an evening news broadcast on any U.S. network. Walters has also worked as a producer and host of the ABC news magazine "20/20" and as a correspondent for ABC News.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney Editing by Eric Kelsey and James Dalgleish)