It’s the end of an era in broadcast journalism — legendary newswoman Barbara Walters is retiring next summer after a remarkable 52 years on TV.
Walters made her formal announcement Monday on “The View,” where the 83-year-old journalist got emotional and wiped away tears as she explained her decision to step down after a video tribute of iconic career played on-screen.
“After all of the speculation and the rumors and so forth last month, I promised you that if I had anything to announce about my future plans, you would hear it first here, so here it goes…” Walters said at the top of the show, as she got a roaring standing ovation from the studio audience.
“In the summer of 2014, a year from now, I plan to retire from appearing on television at all,” Walters said, finally confirming the retirement rumors that first surfaced in March. “It has been an absolutely joyful, rewarding, challenging, fascinating, and occasionally bumpy ride. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’m perfectly healthy,” she added. “This is my decision. I’ve been thinking about it a long time. This is what I want to do.”
“There will be special occasions, and I will come back,” Walters continued. “I’m not walking into the sunset — but I don’t want to appear on another program. I do not want to climb another mountain. Instead, I want to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and okay, some men too — who will be taking my place.”
In her career spanning half a century (!), Walters has been hailed as a trailblazer and an icon for female journalists. She launched her career in 1961 at the “Today” show, where she was “hired for 13 weeks to be a writer and reporter for NBC — and I stayed for 15 years,” said Walters, who was promoted to co-host in 1974. She was a pivotal figure in getting the “Today” “girls,” as they were known back then, renamed and identified as “co-hosts” — “I’m very proud of that,” Walters said Monday.
Walters was lured away by ABC News in 1976 and went on to co-host “20/20″ for two decades, along with her trademark specials, such as her annual “Most Fascinating” list and her Oscars specials. She left that show in September 2004 to launch the daytime talk show, “The View,” for which she will continue to serve as a co-executive producer along with Bill Geddie.
“There’s only one Barbara Walters,” ABC News President Ben Sherwood summed up. “And we look forward to making her final year on television as remarkable, path-breaking and news-making as Barbara herself.”