Now official: Barbara Walters retiring next year


Barbara WaltersAfter a rumor she quashed in late March, the iconic TV news journalist confirmed 5/13 that retirement from her television career is near, but not right away. She said on her ABC daytime talker “The View” that she’ll step away from the camera next summer.

The announcement brought the 83-year-old Walters to tears. “In the summer of 2014 I plan to retire from appearing on television at all,” Walters said.

Walters was hospitalized in January after falling and cutting her head while leaving a party in DC and remained out of work after developing the chickenpox. Largely retired from ABC News already, her main work is at ABC’s “The View,” the daytime hit she created in 1997.

Her TV career began in 1961, when she was hired as a writer for the “Today” show. She moved quickly to on-air work and became the show’s co-host before leaving in 1976 to become co-anchor of ABC’s evening news with Harry Reasoner — the first woman in such a role for a network.

She preceded her announcement with a video outlining career highlights, from her appearance in a Playboy bunny outfit on “Today” to her interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad last year. She mentioned her pride in rising to “Today” co-host and becoming the first woman on a network evening news program, co-anchoring with Harry Reasoner on ABC. Her interviews became her calling card, sitting across from actors and presidents. Her prime-time talk with Monica Lewinsky set a ratings standard.

She didn’t cite that as a reason for leaving, saying she is in perfect health and isn’t being pushed out, reported The AP/Ottawa Citizen.

“I want to leave while people are still saying, ‘why is she leaving?’ instead of ‘why doesn’t she leave?” Walters said.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by to salute Walters on the live telecast. The audience included top ABC/Disney executives, including Disney CEO Robert Iger. Walters joked with Iger about appearing on “Dancing With the Stars” together.

“You made a difference in how journalism, particularly television journalism, is done today,” Bloomberg said. “You didn’t make enemies. You were not nasty about it.”

Walters began in television news as a “Today” reporter in 1961, became the best-known interviewer in American TV. Before her retirement, she’ll be the focus of TV specials looking back at her work. Besides continuing to appear on “The View” and report for ABC News in the next year, Walters will host a 20-year retrospective of her most fascinating people series in December, an Oscars special and a career retrospective next May.

“I’ve had an amazing career — beyond anything I could have imagined,” Walters said, “and I hope I have inspired some other women both in front of and behind the camera.”

See the AP/Ottawa Citizen story here.

RBR-TVBR observation: Good job on the way it was announced, ABC/Disney, first class! For someone like Walters, work is her life. She’s finding a good time to start enjoying retirement, while she’s still in good health. She may get bored with retirement. If not, she’ll have plenty of social and civic functions to attend—more than she probably wants to. Needless to say, if she ever wanted to do a special, guest on a TV show or the like, she’ll always be welcomed with open arms.