Walters started out in TV in the 1950s and blazed a trail for women in broadcasting. I can't really think of her British equivalent, but she is deeply revered in America. Her style of interviewing was/is hardly Paxman-esque and in some
ways she makes David Frost seem like an attack dog, yet she was brilliant at what she refers to as "the get". If Barbara Walters called, you did the interview. She decided to retire from co-anchoring her 20/20 programme in 2004 (at the age of 75!), partly because she was frustrated by the priorities of modern day TV executives. This extract from her book explains why...
If I had second thoughts about leaving 20/20, and sometimes in the wee small hours of the night I did, by morning they were gone... I was hoping that the last interview I would do on 20/20 would be with President Bush. I had put in a request to interview him. I was told he would consider it. Earlier int he summer, however, I had received a whispered phone call from a woman names Mary Kay Letrouneau. She had recently been released from a seven year term in prison for her sexual relationship with an underage student named Vili Fualaau ... She now said she was consdiering telling all about her experience and would I be interested in doing the very first interview since her release. I said yes and hoped I could do it in August or early September. But Mary kay couldn't make up her mind... Finally she did, just a week before my last day on air ... While I was weighing this, a call came from President Bush's office. he had agreed to do the interview with me. Were we ready to commit for next week?
The president of the United States or a convicted child molester? The president? the chold molester? The president? The child molester? The powers that be chose the chld molester.
I rest my case.
An incredible tale, but symptomatic of the way of modern television. Chase the ratings, never mind the content.