A critic's view: You've come a long way, Barbara Walters

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 12, 2014 - 9:48 AM

A respectful appreciation of one of television’s groundbreakers.


Barbara Walters

Photo: Lou Rocco, ABC via AP

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Here’s a dangerous confession: Barbara Walters bugs me. I don’t like that she runs in celebrity circles, poses for affectionate photos with her subjects and overdramatizes the simplest of questions. Sure, she’s landed a lot of tough-to-get interviews, but most of them had about as much substance as a vanilla wafer.

And yet … Walters deserves every honor she’s getting this week: ABC News headquarters being named in her honor, Thursday’s reunion of every panelist in “The View’s” history, Friday’s prime-time special, the 1,000 buckets of tears her departure will create. Heck, go ahead and throw in a ticker-tape parade.

The justification for all the hoopla is simple: Walters may not have been the best female journalist in the business, but she was its most important founding mother.

It’s painful to recall how sexist the business was when she began carving out her career.

She put up with the indignity of being a “Today Show Girl” long enough to rise to the top.

Her position as the first network female anchor came with the cruel caveat that she had to share the desk with Harry Reasoner, a newscaster who thought a woman’s place was in the cooking segments.

She revolutionized daytime TV with the insane theory that women could hold a riveting conversation with no input from the other gender. And she did it all with spunk.

I love spunk.

Working journalists shouldn’t get the kind of maudlin, showbiz tributes we’ll hear this week, but in this case I’m willing to bend the rules — just as she did.

Neal Justin


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