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Barbara Walters: Trailblazing US news anchor dies aged 93

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Image source, Getty Images

Pioneering US TV broadcaster Barbara Walters has died aged 93 after a career spanning half a century.

She became the first US female network news anchor when she joined ABC News in 1976.

Born in Boston at the start of the Great Depression in 1929, she won 12 Emmy awards.

As well as every US president from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump, she interviewed a host of music and pop culture stars.

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“Barbara Walters passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by loved ones,” said publicist Cindi Berger in a statement on Friday night.

“She lived her life with no regrets. She was a trailblazer not only for female journalists, but for all women.”

The showbusiness booking agent’s daughter began her career in journalism in 1961 with NBC, where she became a segment producer of women’s interest stories.

She rose through the ranks of the male-dominated industry to make history in 1974 by becoming the first female co-host of a US news programme, on NBC’s morning-time Today Show.

Promotional portrait of television journalist Barbara Walters on the set of the Today Show, New York City, in 1976

Image source, Getty Images

When she broke the glass ceiling again by becoming the first female network news anchor, on ABC’s evening bulletin, her unprecedented $1m salary made her a media superstar.

“I have been blessed with a life I never expected,” Walters said back in 2000 as she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

She retired from a 52-year career in 2014 with a last appearance on her daytime show, The View.

She was joined on the programme by Hillary Clinton and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, both frequent Walters interview subjects.

“I can’t believe this day has come, and I can’t believe it’s for real,” Ms Clinton told Walters.

Over her long career she interviewed a long list of world leaders including UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Cuban President Fidel Castro as well Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

She also interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a few months after a public uprising that would eventually turn into the country’s civil war.

Tributes have been flooding in for Walters.

Journalist Dan Rather said that “journalism has lost a pillar of professionalism, courage, and integrity”.

News anchor Don Lemon tweeted: “She was obviously amazing on television but I selfishly loved spending time with her in person. Sitting next to her at a dinner party was the best seat in the house.

“With love, respect and admiration – rest in peace Barbara Walters.”

Oprah Winfrey described Walters as “such a powerful and gracious role model”.

Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, said “Barbara was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself.

“She was a one-of-a-kind reporter who landed many of the most important interviews of our time, from heads of state and leaders of regimes to the biggest celebrities and sports icons.”

Anchor of ABC World News Tonight, David Muir, tweeted: “So often we toss around the words icon, legend, trailblazer – but Barbara Walters was all of these.

“And perhaps, above all else, Barbara Walters was brave. She paved the way for so many – we learned from her – and remain in awe of her to this day.”

ABC News Correspondent, Deborah Roberts, who worked alongside Walters, described her as an “inimitable trailblazer”.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Senator Chuck Schumer said: “Barbara Walters was a trailblazing journalist, so many of her interviews were unforgettable. She broke the glass ceiling for so many women and girls.”

American actress Lynda Carter said: “Barbara Walters was an American institution.

“As the first female national news anchor, she opened the door to endless possibilities for so many girls who wanted to work in TV, myself included. Her impact cannot be overstated.”

Singer Jennifer Hudson said: “A true trailblazer and icon! She lived a full life and leaves behind such a powerful legacy.”

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabba said Walters “never flinched when questioning the world’s most powerful people”.

“She held them accountable. She cared about the truth and she made us care too. Fortunately, she inspired many other journalists to be just as unrelenting. We are all better off because of her.”

Actor Hugh Jackman said Walters was “a trail blazer, wickedly funny, generous, open hearted and a good friend.

“She also gave some of the most memorable dinner parties we’ve ever been to.”

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