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What I Know Now: Barbara Walters

Trailblazing TV journalist chats about aging, success and how to stop sweating the small stuff

Barbara Walters (Trunk Archive)

Barbara Walters shares what she has learned ... and much more. — Trunk

Why She's Retiring

En español | This was the right time. The kinds of interviews I did all these years — nobody wants them anymore. You have three minutes of a morning show. That's different from before. And The View, which I created, has been on the air for almost 17 years. It's very successful, and I hope it will stay on after me. But 17 years is enough. I don't want to do anything forever.

See also: After Barbara Walters signs off May 16 ... then what?

Her 'What's Next'

Why do I have to do something next? I don't ask my friends, "What are you gonna do next?" I've worked for 50 years in television — 37 years at ABC. Why can't I do what I'd like to do? Maybe go to a movie or a museum, maybe sleep until 9, maybe see a friend. I look forward to not having every day planned, or having to be at a certain place at a certain time.

Making Peace With Aging

Nothing is going to stop you from aging physically. You can change the way you look by doing certain things, if you want. But you cannot stop getting older. So [at 84] it's not something that's on my mind every day. I don't get up in the morning saying, "Oh my dear, I'm old." I get up and think, "I hope it will be a good day. I hope there will be things to smile about."

Dealing With Criticism

When I was on the Today show, there were people who liked me a lot and people who thought I was too pushy. That didn't bother me. But when I became the first woman coanchor of a network news program [ABC Evening News in 1976], I was vilified. That did hurt me. I thought my career was over. No one wanted a woman, and they certainly didn't seem to want me, and I had a cohost [Harry Reasoner] who really didn't want me. What saved me was that Roone Arledge, who was president of ABC News, felt I had value. And he let Harry go back to CBS and kept me on, which was remarkable. And that is when I probably did my best work, because I traveled all over the world and did interviews that I think remain important to this day.

Her Game-changing Style

Years ago when I was doing interviews, I felt that the personality, the character, was as important as the specific thing a famous person did publicly. And it was important to me to have my viewers feel they knew this person. I was criticized for that. But now when people do interviews, these are the questions they ask.

Most Important Interviews

The interview [in 1977] with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin. Israel and Egypt were fierce enemies, and the future of the Middle East was resting on their shoulders. I think the fact that I was able to get them together was remarkable and unique. Fidel Castro [interviewed that same year] was different. We spent days with Castro. We traveled all over the mountains with him. Those are the kinds of interviews you don't do today because the leaders want to know what your ratings are and which program has the most time.

Her Biggest 'Get'

Monica Lewinsky remains the most watched. At the time [1999] it was a sensational interview. I think it's very sad that Monica has not been allowed to move on. And I've seen Monica, so I know. This is a woman who is now 40. Everybody else has moved on. The Clintons are in a very good place, and they should be. But Monica, for whatever reasons, has never been able to create an important life for herself.

Next page: Walters take on news, working women, and flirting with Clint. »

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