After 17 years of hosting ABC’s The View, Barbara Walters said goodbye to her colleagues and fans in a show that aired last Friday. But it wasn’t just her usual crew to help with the send-off; some of television’s most venerable female journalists were also present to salute the 84-year-old journalist, including Diane Sawyer, Joan London, Connie Chung, and Katie Couric. Even Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey stopped by. And all in all, over five million viewers tuned in to celebrate Walters five-decade career.
Walters, who has one daughter, adopted in1968, may have started out smiling on dog food commercials, but she eventually made her way to chatting with the likes of Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin, Indira Gandhi, Anna Wintour and Michael Jackson—just to name a very few. She was leaning in before the term was coined. And although Walters cannot be credited with creating TV’s celebrity “get” (the honor goes to Edward R. Murrow’s, a 1950s news icon), she certainly helped advance it.
In 1999, over 74 million viewers tuned in to see the intrepid interviewer’s intimate questioning of infamous White House intern Monica Lewinsky. According to Times reporter Jonathan Mahler, “more people than had ever watched a news program — or have watched one since. As was often the case with Ms. Walters’s broadcasts during her prime, it was television as a form of national theater.”
For better or worse, however, the exclusive interview no longer ranks as high as it once did. Digital media, especially social media outlets, and the overall fragmentation of media has made watching the major interview in just one place at one designated time unecessary. In fact, it may not be long before “the very notion of a celebrity choosing to break news in an interview could soon become outdated,” writes Mahler.
And if there’s any truth to that, Walters could not have chosen a better time to bid adieu.