Deadline is reporting that Barbara Walter is expected to announce her retirement soon, effective in May 2014. That would make the grand dame of journalism nearly 85 years old. That is outstanding, y’all. Nevermind that the last decade or two of the woman’s life has been devoted mostly to entertainment journalism — she started The View and is a regular co-host on the show, and she’s best known to the current generation as the lady who hosts the Oscar specials. She’s great at that, and the running joke, of course, used to be that a guest couldn’t sit down with Barbara Walters without eventually crying.
Before that, however, Walters was a journalist, and she worked her ass off. She broke into the business in 1951, straight out of college, and worked as a researcher and writer, eventually working through the ranks until she landed the co-host gig on the Today show in 1974, although her male co-host wouldn’t allow her that title and insisted on asking the first four questions to all guest. She was officially named co-anchor after that man, Frank McGee, passed away. Then she was made the co-anchor of ABC Evening News with Harry Reasoner in 1976, but he didn’t respect her much, either, in part because she was a woman. But Walters stuck it out, and in the 80s, ended up co-hosting a newsmagazine 20/20 that still exists today. She also moderated a presidential debate, and has interviewed some very important worldwide figures over the course of her career (including Castro, Yeltsin, Putin, and Gandhi), plus pretty much every important celebrity for about a 30 year period. She also holds the record for the most watched interview ever, her interview with Monica Lewinsky, which fetched 74 million viewers. That’s insane.
She’s still hanging in there, too, at 83 years of age, returning to The View, even after open heart surgery in 2010. She’s a tough old cookie, a hell of a journalist, and certainly someone worthy of our admiration. If anyone deserves to go out on her own terms, it’s Barbara f***ing Walters. Congrats to her on a fine goddamn career.