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Journalism icon Walters to sign off

Trailblazing US television journalist Barbara Walters, famed for her political and celebrity interviews in a career spanning more than half-a-century, is to retire next month, the ABC network confirmed on Monday.

Walters, 84, who had already confirmed she would retire this year, will bring down the curtain on 53 years of broadcasting when she co-hosts her chat show The View for the last time on Friday, May 16.

VIEW FROM THE TOP: (from left) Guest co-host Sunny Hostin, actress Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters and Gerald Schwartzbach, on The View, during the career celebration season featuring The Year of Barbara, a look back at many of her most notable interviews. Credit: AP

“In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters,” Robert A Iger, chairman and chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said.

“It’s impossible to fully convey her impact and influence on television. She broke barriers, defied convention, made history and set the standard for journalistic excellence for more than 50 years.

“It’s hard to imagine television without her.”

Walters joined ABC in 1976, becoming the first female anchor of an evening news programme.

ABC said on Monday its New York headquarters would be renamed in her honour to reflect her pioneering career.

A two-hour special charting her career is to be screened by ABC on the night she steps down.

Walters began her career in 1961 at NBC’s breakfast news and entertainment programme Today, making a household name for herself before her groundbreaking move to ABC.

In 1997, she launched The View, a daytime talk show pitched at women of diverse backgrounds featuring an all-female panel discussing issues of the day.

Such is its reach that it is a must-visit stop for US presidential candidates. Over the years Walters has interviewed leaders like Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin (side-by-side for the first time) and every US president and first lady since Richard Nixon.

She also made her name interviewing a raft of Hollywood celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Justin Bieber. – Sapa-AFP

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