|Barbara Jill Walters
|September 25, 1929
|Journalist, Television Producer,
Author, Presenter, Screenwriter,
Talk Show Host
Barbara Walters grew up in an age when women were not part of the news. When she was starting her career, women were not hosts, co-hosts, or media mavens. Well, six decades in, Barbara managed to change the perception. It is no surprise she is one of the richest women in the industry.
When she entered the journalism world, Barbara wanted to change the world. The polarizing media personality paved the way for women in the news. And on her journey, she amassed a giant fortune. As of June 2020, Barbara Walters’ assets are estimated at around $170 million.
Walters started her career in the early 1960s. She spent more than sixty years in the business. Her first job was a publicist with Tex McCrary Inc. and a writer for the Redbook magazine. In 1961, she joined NBC’s The Today Show as a writer and research.
After a while, she moved up the ladder to a Today Girl title. She handled lighter assignments and the weather. Can you imagine Barbara Walters as a weather girl? Well, there was a time she did that. In her autobiography, Walters stresses that before the Women’s Movement nobody took women as reporters for hard news.
But within a year of Today Girl, Walters managed to grow to a reporter-at-large role. She wrote and edited her own reports and interviews. In 1971, she started hosting her own local NBC affiliate show, Not for Women Only. It ran in the morning after The Today Show.
From 1976 to 1978, she joined as a co-anchor on the ABC Evening News. She also spent time on the ABC newsmagazine 20/20. There, she reunited with former Today Show host Hugh Downs in 1979. During her ABC career, she appeared as a commentator, including presidential inaugurations. She also covered the 9/11 event.
A highlight of her career is the third and final debate between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. She got chosen as the moderator during the 1976 presidential election. In 1984, she moderated a Presidential debate at the Dana Center for the Humanities.
Today, the signature feature of Walter is her personality journalism and scoop interviews. During her career, she managed to do a joint interview with Egypt’s President Anwar Al Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The list of interviews includes Vaclav Havel, Muammar al-Gaddafi, King Hussein of Jordan, Jiang Zemin, Margaret Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, and more.
She also interviewed influential people like Michael Jackson, Katharine Hepburn, Anna Wintour, and more celebrities.
Barbara made a television special about Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It aired on June 9, 1977. During the interview, she asked “You allow no dissent. Your newspapers, radio, and television are under state control”. Castro replied, “Barbara, our concept of freedom of the press is not yours”.
Her 1999 interview of Monica Lewinsky amassed a record of 74 million views. This is the highest rating ever for a news program.
Her last big project was the daytime talk show The View. She had 50% shares of the program. Barbara served as the co-creator and co-executive producer. The show premiered on August 11, 1997, with Walters describing it as a forum for women of different generations, backgrounds, and views.
The View brought two Daytime Emmy Awards for Best Talk Show host.
Barbara retired from the View and hosting on May 15, 2014. During retirement, she appeared in a couple of shows in 2014 and 2015.
Awards and Achievements
During her impressive career, Barbara earned a lot of awards. Here are a few high-profile awards.
- The President’s Award
- The Lowell Thomas Award for a career in journalism excellence
- Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Barbara won Primetime Emmy, 3 Daytime Emmy, and Lifetime Daytime Emmy Achievement Award.
She won her first Award for Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show host in 1975. Since then, it is all awards and achievements. In total, she has more than 20 Daytime Emmy award nominations.
So far, Barbara got married four times to three different men. She got married for the first time with Robert Henry Katz in 1955. After 11 months, the marriage got annulled.
For her second husband, she chose theatrical producer and owner Lee Guber. They got married in December 1963 and got divorced in 1976. Together, they have one daughter.
In 1981, she got married to her third husband, Merv Adelson, the Ceo of Lorimar Television. They got a divorce in 1984, and then got remarried in 1986. The two got a divorce for the second time in 1992.
In her autobiography, she describes her lifelong devotion to Roy Cohn for his help in the adoption of her daughter Jacqueline. In the autobiography, she also talks about affairs and other relationships.
During a 2014 CNN Interview, Walters revealed her greatest regret is not having more children.
With more than sixty years of career in the business, Walters left a great legacy behind. People remember her for getting access to the world’s newsmakers and asking tough questions. She got inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1989. In June 2007, she got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Barbara Walters’ wealth is around $170 million. And she spends a big chunk of it on philanthropy. In 2015, Barbara donated $15 million to the Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. It is the single largest donation in the school’s history.
Now students walk into the Barbara Walters Campus Center, an archive of her famous interviews. The campus also includes a media laboratory, radio station, and dining facilities.