Barbara Walters was the pioneer that opened up doors for so many newswomen who came after her. One would think that it had to have been because she was a natural, possessing great charisma and beauty. However, if we look more closely, we would see that she rose steadily by engaging a number of roles. Before becoming the Barbara Walters, the preeminent interviewer of the famous and the infamous, she was a segment writer and producer; an editor; she did publicity and wrote press releases; she did research; and she was a weather girl. She started at the bottom and diligently rose to the top. It was her hard work and attentiveness that grabbed the attention of so many who wanted to be interviewed by her.
In her book, “How to Talk with Practically Anybody about Practically Anything,” she provides stories which allow us to catch a glimpse of how highly detailed she was in her approach. She studied her interviewees extensively to understand their interests, so that she could reach the person, and not just responses to questions. She had a probing interview style, possessing an unusual ability to ask questions which the public wanted answers to, yet, she was able to inquire without making anyone feel alienated or threatened. It is noted that she had the ability to land the “first interview” with so many because her kindness matched her candor. She was diligent in showing appreciation while being thorough in her exploration.
It has been suggested that Barbara’s display of empathy stems from growing up with responsibility for her sister. She credits her sister Jacqueline (who was developmentally disabled), for teaching her compassion and understanding. Barbara Walters was masterful in drawing out personal emotion and displaying them herself. Her disarming nature caused even fierce, hard edged leaders to let their guards down. She was able to show compassion, and those being interviewed reciprocated. She knew how to win people over. Whether it was an elite Hollywood celebrity, a hated dictator, a CEO, an athlete, or pop music icon, she had the ability to penetrate the hardest exteriors to get to the heart of a person.
Through her talk show, the View, women of “different generations, backgrounds, and views” have a forum to be heard. Although she interviewed some of the most famous people on the planet, she was most inspired by her interview of a deaf-blind man (Robert Smithdas) who devoted his entire life to improving the lives of others. She has told the stories of the world’s most beloved and those who the world has demonized. Her efforts to continually give voice to others, no matter who they are, and her excellence in journalism has resulted in the granting of honorary doctorates from several universities around the world. For Barbara, her local community is a global one, and she has certainly made a difference in it as a true citizen of the world.
She worked for ABC, NBC, and CBS. She has been awarded with the highest television ratings for countless interviews and shows she has hosted. She is recognized and respected as a true statesman of her industry. Barbara Walters is said to have interviewed more statesmen and stars than any other journalist in history. She has interviewed every American President and First Lady since Richard Nixon, she has interviewed world figures such as Russian President Boris Yeltsin, China’s Premier Jiang Zemin, Great Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Libya’s Moammar Qadaffi and Iraq’s President Sadaam Hussein. She has won Emmy Awards, praise and recognition from all her peers, and the acclaim of many halls of fame. Barbara Walters has been a Contributing Leader to so many, and she is well deserving of her accolades, for they are the fruit of hard work, determination, character, and concern for others.