Today, the word "trailblazer" is being attached to Barbara Walters. Rightfully so.
Walters went over to ABC. There, she became the first female ever to anchor a network evening newscast. Just like the stories she reported, her new position was big news.
For More, the name of the new live afternoon show I did on WISN TV in 1984, my co-host and I had an interview with Barbara Walters to promote her ABC work. Her specials were must-see TV. Especially her Oscar night specials. She'd recently interviewed movie legend Katharine Hepburn and asked her "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" It was a follow-up question.
Walters got lots of joshing on morning radio for that question.
My co-host was thanking Walters profusely for being such a pioneer for women in broadcasting. Heck, I felt she was a pioneer for minorities too. Let's face it. Women and minorities were treated like second class citizens in America. That's why we needed the Civil Rights and feminist movements. I'd read Barbara Walters' book.
On WISN TV, I asked Barbara Walters "If you were a tree..." She broke in with "Oooh!" We all laughed. She revealed she'd gotten so much teasing about that question, then she energetically and sweetly defended herself by telling us why she asked it and why she didn't regret asking it.
It was exactly the kind of response I was hoping to get. I was proud I got such a fun rise out of her.
ABC News had wonderful tributes to Peter Jennings when he passed away. ABC today and tonight will have fabulous, festive farewells to Barbara Walters. In her book, How To Talk With Practically Anybody About Anything, Walters wrote that one of the best questions you can ask is a simple one: "Why?" Her tips came in handy when I started my New York TV career the next year.
The late Max Robinson, who was also a trailblazer, seems to have been forgotten. He founded the National Association for Black Journalists. ABC has not highlighted his groundbreaking legacy the way it honored the late Peter Jennings and the way it's doing now for the retiring Barbara Walters. Max Robinson's work is in the ABC archives. It's not brought out so we can recall his history in broadcasting.
Thank you, Barbara Walters. You are indeed a trailblazer and an inspiration. And not just for women.