Barbara Walters


The New York Times writes that Barbara Walters broke barriers for women as a co-host of the “Today” show, a network evening news anchor, and a creator of “The View,” all while gaining her own kind of celebrity. Also while covering this iconic journalist who broke barriers, the Grey Lady, (not Walters, the Times) put an apostrophe in “Walter’s.” Ugh.

I have mixed views on Barbara Walters. She was iconic and a trailblazer. She was a great interviewer and got access to people other journalists couldn’t reach, like Fidel Castro and the Shah of Iran. She would ask tough questions like the time she asked Robin Givens if her husband Mike Tyson ever hit her. She asked this question was Givens was sitting right next to Tyson….and then Givens filed for divorce days after the interview.

But she also would ask dumb questions, like after Katherine Hepburn said she felt like a tree, Walters asked, “What kind of tree are you?”

Walters blurred the lines between news and entertainment and between journalists and celebrities. Her journalism made her a celebrity and that’s who she mingled with. She associated and had intimate relationships with the people she was supposed to be covering.

The film “The Paper” is fictional, but there’s a great description of journalists in it. Bernie White, played by the great Robert Duvall, tells one of his colleagues, “The people we cover – we move in their world but it is their world. You can’t live like them.” That’s probably more true for journalists who work for newspapers and not national television, but it should be true for all journalists. Journalists shouldn’t have affairs with senators.

I am not famous, not by a long shot. But sometimes I’m told I am. I usually respond that I’m not famous, I’m just well-known to a specific set of people.

People are complicated. Walters was good at her job and did blaze a trail for female journalists, and maybe for all of journalism. When she was given the co-anchor slot on ABC’s Evening News with Harry Reasoner, he privately dismissed it as a gimmick. Today, it’s very common to see female anchors on the news. Even Fox News is full of them…sure, they’re all blondes and being sexually harassed by management, but they’re there.

And Walters did ask a lot of great questions. She asked Jimmy Carter if he and his wife slept in separate beds (they did not). She asked Prime Minister Morarji Desai of India if he drank his own urine for medicinal purposes (he did!). She asked Monica Lewinsky why she kept the blue dress with presidential love goo on it.

She also asked Dolly Parton if they were real, asked Barbra Steisand why she didn’t get a nose job, and asked Whitney Houston if it bothered her that her husband Bobby Brown had three kids from two other women (which is something she could have asked Melania Trump…except it was four kids by two other women).

And she dated Roy Cohn and had a lifelong devotion to him. Yes, the same Roy Cohn who was the corrupt lawyer Donald Trump wanted his lawyers to emulate. There’s no way Barbara Walters never knew what a corrupt goon Cohn was while maintaining her life-long relationship with him.

I believe people need to be remembered for what they were. The way I see it, Barbara Walters was great at her job while being unfaithful to it. She was blind to the threats she made to her own journalistic credibility and integrity. And if we’re going to give her credit for blurring the lines between news and entertainment, then we should give her a little blame for the likes of Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham, who turned news into entertainment and then into propaganda.

I think “The View” is a great platform that has a tendency to go off the rails. Sure, it’s trailblazing for women and the anchors do a great job of covering the issues of the day, but do we really need five people interviewing one person at the same time?

I know I’m leaving a lot out, but this is what I take from it. I don’t like drawing these obit cartoons, and I especially hate the Heaven tropes, but good or bad, Barbara Walters was an icon for journalism and I felt I needed to do something about her passing.

Music note: I listened to Regina Spektor while coloring. She has a new album.

Facebook Suspension Update: There are 13 days left in my Facebook suspension for typing the word “Taliban.” Here’s Quannah’s countdown clock.

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7 comments

  1. 🤨 it was an actual question that I didn’t know the answer to…sorry you found it vague. That was not my intent. I didn’t know for sure which Barbara as you said one but were speaking about the other in most of the thingy.
    Peace out

    Like

  2. n to this blog. Your statement “There’s no way Barbara Streisand never knew what a corrupt goon Cohn was while maintaining her life-long relationship with him.” is untrue. Ms. Streisand never had a relationship with Roy Cohn.

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