Barbara Walters has decided it is time for a change. After 25 years as co-host and chief correspondent of ABCNEWS' 20/20, the broadcast legend will leave that role in September and begin a new phase in her career at the network.
She will remain an active member of the news division and network, substantially increasing the number of primetime ABCNEWS specials, in addition to her Barbara Walters Specials, David Westin, president of ABCNEWS announced today.
In asking to be released early from her duties on the newsmagazine, Walters said, "20/20 has been an integral part of my life and a major focus of my work. Starting in September, I want to have more flexibility in my life without the responsibilities of a weekly newsmagazine. I am deeply devoted to all those who work on 20/20, and thank them for all their hard work, week in and week out, that has made this such a wonderfully successful season."
"Barbara Walters has been an essential part of 20/20, and therefore, part of the lives of millions of Americans for a quarter-century," said Westin. "All of us will miss her strength, her grace and her presence on Friday nights. But as much as we will miss her as anchor of 20/20, we are just as delighted that we will see her in more primetime specials, where she will continue to contribute to television history."
In addition to increasing the number of specials, Walters will also remain executive producer and continue to appear as co-host of The View, the Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show she created in 1997. The Barbara Walters Specials routinely earn top ratings for ABC.
Walters was the first woman to anchor a network evening news broadcast when she signed with ABCNEWS in 1976. Prior to that, she was the co-host of NBC's Today Show for 13 years. While at NBC, she also hosted a popular syndicated series, Not for Women Only and was a familiar voice on that network's radio news programs. Early in her career, she had been the youngest producer at WNBC-TV in New York and worked as a writer for CBS News.
Walters joined 20/20 in 1979 and shared co-host duties with Hugh Downs until his departure in 1999.
'Towering Figure,' Historic Interviews
"Barbara Walters is a towering figure in broadcasting and we are thrilled that she will continue to be an essential part of ABCNEWS," said Alex Wallau, president of the ABC Television Network. "Thanks to Barbara and the talented and dedicated group of producers and correspondents, 20/20 has distinguished itself as a groundbreaking news franchise, of which we are very proud."
Her status as one of television's most successful journalists was earned over the years via exclusive interviews with leading figures in politics, world affairs and entertainment. Walters has interviewed every American president and first lady since Richard Nixon. She made history by arranging the first joint interview with Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin in November 1977.
Memorable 20/20 guests have included Patricia Hearst, both in prison and after her release; Claus Von Bulow before and after his acquittal; Jane Fonda's apology for her anti-Vietnam War actions; world leaders such as Cuban President Fidel Castro, China's Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladimir Putin; the first interview with Christopher Reeve after his crippling accident; the first interview with actor and murder suspect Robert Blake; Sen. Hillary Clinton talking about her autobiography; and the first interview with Martha Stewart since her indictment on charges related to stock trading. In 1999, Walters conducted the first interview with Monica Lewinsky, which set a ratings record for a broadcast news program.
"My admiration for Barbara and her contributions to ABCNEWS and our national conversation cannot be overstated," said Bob Iger, president of The Walt Disney Company, ABC's corporate parent. "And even though she will be cutting back a bit in the fall from her weekly duties on 20/20, I know there will be new and compelling chapters to look forward to in Barbara Walters' remarkable career."