Some of the nation’s most iconic female journalists and television personalities have taken to social media to pay tribute to Barbara Walters, who passed away Dec. 30 at the age of 93.
The award-winning broadcast journalist boasted a long career characterized by her work on programs such as Today, the ABC Evening News, 20/20 and The View.
“Barbara was a trailblazer, a singular force who opened the door for every woman in television news,” said ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer, who co-hosted 20/20 with Walters from 1998 to 2000.
Oprah Winfrey went as far as to write, “Without Barbara Walters, there wouldn’t have been me — nor any other woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news.”
Walters started her career at Today in 1961, becoming the only female producer and first female co-host of the show, before later becoming the first female anchor of a network news program at ABC.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent and host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC, called Walters “a role model for all women aspiring to become broadcast journalists when television news was exclusively for men.” Mitchell said that Walters was a role model for her when she broke through on Today “with talent, brains, hard work and a lot of guts.”
Walters didn’t make her name in the industry without difficulty. Later in her career, she publicly recalled conflicts with male broadcasters — such as former Today co-host Frank McGee and his rule stating that in interviews, Walters could not ask a question until he had asked three. She also recalled how former ABC Evening News co-anchor Peter Jennings would cut her off when she was speaking.
“It’s the way it was thought of then — the so-called ‘hard news,’” she said in a 2014 OWN interview. “A woman couldn’t do it, the audience wouldn’t accept her voice, she couldn’t go into the war zones, she couldn’t ask the tough questions.”
Walters did ask the tough questions, and gained a reputation for tackling controversial matters in interviews. She put subjects on the spot with questions that were often considered rude when asked by women — but not when asked by men.
“She was just as comfortable interviewing world leaders as she was Oscar winners and her body of work is unparalleled,” wrote journalist Katie Couric.
Deborah Norville, who served as a news anchor on Today from 1989 to 1991, recalled in an Instagram tribute how Walters encouraged her during a low point in her career. “In later years, we would occasionally have tea and she was always filled with good stories (and good gossip!) … every one of us in a tv studio today gets to be there because Barbara was there first.”
Sara Haines, current co-host of The View, expressed her gratitude for Walters, who created the talk show at the age of 68 to champion women’s voices on television. “When she got her seat at the table, she decided to build her own new table,” Haines wrote. “Thank you for paving the way for all of us who come after.”