Talented, dogged, determined, a leader. These labels are typically reserved for male figures in sports and other professions. Too infrequently, the descriptions are assigned to prominent women in their fields.
This weekend, however, a notable exception to that rule, passed away. Barbara Walters’ notoriety and accomplishments transcended gender lines. She died at 93 years old.
In the 1960’s, Barbara Walters began her media career and she eventually evolved into a newscaster, anchor, interviewer and dominant figure on the “View.” Her pleasant, but incisive, take-no-prisoners questioning became famous with many who refused to speak to others.
Richard Nixon, Monica Lewinsky, Muammar Gaddafi, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Fidel Castro, Audrey Hepburn and many others agreed to be interviewed by her. She never gave up pursuit of interviews with controversial figures and eventually many agreed although they knew she would not lob them softball questions.
Equally as important, through the years, Walters helped to shatter the glass ceiling for women in the media. Although early positions required her to accept secondary roles with male co-anchors, she persisted, carved her own niche, and eventually left many male commentators in the dust.
Gilda Radner’s imitation of her style on “Saturday Night Live” occurred during the pinnacle of her career as a newscaster – for some, a sure sign of success.
It is hard to imagine that neither 20/20, nor occasional news specials will no longer include participation by this icon of the media for half a century. And, for women who seek to improve their stature in a field still predominantly dominated by men, Walters will remain a pioneer. The level of admiration for her was demonstrated by fellow participants and others who honored her on The View when she retired in 2014.
In fact, Walters’ persistence and success made her a role model for both men and women in the media. Her influence for women, however, is perhaps symbolically described by Lady Gaga in her recent hit song, “Hold My Hand”. Walters’ hand and guidance, by example, will be extended to those seeking media careers long after she is gone.