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Barbara Walters

writer, reporter, ABC News

Although Barbara Walters would later downplay her relationship with the feminist movement, her early career is marked by a number of moves that were in part responsible for breaking down the all-male facade of U.S. network news. A *Today Show* regular for 15 years, including two years as the show's first official female co-host, she was a visible presence in, at first, the program's "feature" segments, then going on to covering "hard news"--including serving as part of the NBC News team sent to cover President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972. Her most controversial first involved her decision in 1976 to leave Today to co-anchor the ABC Evening News with Harry Reasoner (the first time a woman was allowed the privileged position of network evening anchor) for a record-breaking seven-figure salary. Public reaction to both her salary and approach to the news, which critics claimed led to the creeping "Infotainment" mentality which threatens traditional reporting, undercut ABC News ratings, and she was quickly bumped from the anchor desk. After this public relations disaster, Walters undertook a comeback on ABC with The Barbara Walters Specials, an occasional series of interviews with heads of state, newsmakers, sports figures and Hollywood celebrities that have consistently topped the ratings and made news in themselves. In 1977, she arranged the first joint interview with Egypt's President Anwar Sadat and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin; she has since interviewed six U.S. Presidents, as well as political figures as diverse as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, U.S. presidential contender Ross Perot, and Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin. In 1984, ABC returned her to an anchor desk as co-host of the newsmagazine *20/20*. Walters began her career in broadcast journalism as a writer for CBS News.