Barbara Walters: The “Today Girl” Who Became a Legendary Journalist

Meet the first woman to co-anchor American evening news, introduced by (author of The Book of Awesome Women Writers) Becca Anderson.

Barbara Walters once said, “I was the kind nobody thought could make it. I had a funny Boston accent. I couldn’t pronounce my Rs. I wasn’t a beauty.” For decades, she has proven everyone who doubted her to be utterly wrong. Born September 25, 1929, Barbara is an American broadcast journalist, author, and television personality who has hosted shows including The Today Show, The View, 20/20, and the ABC Evening News. Barbara attended Sarah Lawrence College in 1951; she obtained a B.A. in English and then worked at a small advertising agency for a year. After that, she went to work at the NBC network affiliate in New York City doing publicity and writing press releases. Barbara continued on to produce a number of shows, including the Eloise McElhone Show until its cancellation in 1954. She then started as a writer on the CBS Morning Show in 1955.

Barbara’s career began to skyrocket in 1961 when she became a writer and researcher for the Today Show; she later moved up to be the show’s “Today Girl”, a position in which she presented the weather and light news items. At that time, it was still early in the second wave of the women’s movement, and no one took a woman presenting hard news seriously, and there were difficulties with news anchors like Frank McGee who demanded preferential treatment as she started to cross over into news anchor territory. After McGee passed away in 1974, NBC at last promoted Barbara to the position of co-host – the first woman ever to rise to such a position on any U.S. news program.

Barbara was on a roll. Two years later, she became the first woman to co-anchor any American evening news show on a major network when she joined the ABC Evening News, ABC’s flagship news program. Walters
had a difficult relationship with her co-anchor Harry Reasoner, because he didn’t want to have to work with a co-anchor. This led to their team-up lasting only from 1976-78. Walters became a household name while a co-host and producer at the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 from 1979 to 2004, as well as for her appearances on special reports as a commentator, including presidential inaugurations and coverage of 9/11. She was also a moderator for the final debate between presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Barbara is famous for her interviews with memorable people, including Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin, Michael Jackson, Katharine Hepburn, Anna Wintour, and Monica Lewinsky. In addition to her work at 20/20, Walters co-created The View, a current events talk show hosted solely by women, in 1997. She was a co-host on the show until May 2014 but continues as an executive producer. Barbara Walters was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1989, and in 2007 received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She has also won Daytime and Prime Time Emmy Awards, the Women in Film Lucy Award, the GLAAD Excellence in Media Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Women’s Agenda.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.


The Book of awesome women writers

Medieval Mystics, Pioneering Poets, Fierce Feminists and First Ladies of Literature (Feminist Book, Gift for Women, Gift for Writers)

This one-of-a-kind tome takes a tour with Sylvia Beach and other booksellers as well as librarians, editors, writers, bibliophiles, and celebrated book clubs. Join women’s studies scholar Anders as she takes you on a ribald ride through the pages of history. Chapter titles include “Prolific Pens” (including Joyce Carol Oates, author of over 100 books), “Mystics, Memoirists and Madwomen”, “Salons and Neosalons”, “Ink in Their Veins” (literary dynasties), and the titillating “Banned, Blacklisted, and Arrested.”