Here is the news… costing one million dollars 

1 November 2018

Meet Barbara Walters, the highest paid journalist in the world, now the property of the American Broadcasting Corporation [sic]. News Editor Mark Andrews of ITN, has just returned from America after studying television news and discovering why Barbara Walters is a million-dollar a year woman…

She has a slight speech impediment. And by British standards her performance as a TV interviewer and newscaster might not be considered anywhere near good enough for a British programme.

Yet, she has been signed up for five million dollars — spread over five years — to front, with an experienced male colleague, one of America’s highly rated, nationwide news programmes. She starts on September 20 in New York.

She is Barbara Walters, 44, the daughter of a cockney who emigrated to the United States when he was 15.

Just what does Miss Walters have that makes the ABC network pay her a million dollars a year, and provide her with a full-time hairdresser, chauffeur-driven limousine and press agent?

No one seems certain — not even the ABC executives responsible for luring her from the rival NBC network, where she presented a morning breakfast show that involved getting up at five every day to be in the studio by seven.

But, it seems, the rich, the famous, the infamous and the influential all want to be interviewed by Barbara Walters, and so join a unique and exclusive section of human life. An interview with her is a top status symbol.

From the TVTimes for 14-20 August 1976

While still working for the NBC early this summer she interviewed the disgraced former Vice President, Spiro Agnew, about his newly-published novel. He had turned everyone else down. Watching the interview, an ABC executive, whose morning show had failed to get Agnew, shrugged and told me: “That’s why I think we’re paying her a million bucks a year. She gets ’em to the camera. That’s what it’s all about.” No one seemed to notice that it was, again by British standards, a poor interview. But next day it got acres of newspaper coverage and every story mentioned NBC.

Miss Walters, in addition to her newscasting duties, will do four prime time entertainment specials and host a current affairs show entitled Issues and Answers eight times a year. ABC, in their massive drive for top place among the three network news programmes, think they have the answer in Barbara.

She has been around American television for many years — trying to make it in a male-orientated world. She was fired several times, then joined NBC 15 years ago. “I was the kind of person nobody ever thought would make it. I had this funny Boston accent. I couldn’t pronounce my “Rs” and I wasn’t a beauty. No one thought of sending me to interview anyone, so I did it on my own.”

She finally got her break when she persuaded the reticent Dean Rusk, then U.S. Secretary of State, to tell all in a heart-to-heart interview.

For her new role she has already signed up Mrs. Rose Kennedy, mother of the former President; the Queen of Denmark; and Spiro Agnew again. On her “shopping list”, as she calls it, is ex-President Nixon and Jackie Onassis.

She didn’t mention the Queen of England, although she has interviewed Prince Philip.

Barbara Walters, twice divorced and frequently seen in the company of Alan Greenspan, President Ford’s economic adviser, describes herself as a very ordinary person, not ferociously ambitious. “I’m not tough, I have no close friends in television, I still see six or seven girls I went to college with.” She has a seven-year-old adopted daughter.

A television colleague, while not disagreeing with all of that, describes her as temperamental, pushy and unbearably over-zealous.

What is she going to do with all the money? Her tastes are not extravagant. She lives, with a maid and governess, in a rented New York apartment. She doesn’t drive or own a car, but admits to an extensive wardrobe.

She says the money doesn’t mean very much to her (and incidentally under American tax laws she’ll keep well over half her earnings). She’s ignoring all offers by tax avoidance experts to lessen the amount she does pay. She’s conscious of being the highest paid journalist in the world, but hopes that people won’t resent her. “I don’t want to be treated like a movie queen,” she says. “I’m a serious and dedicated journalist and I never heard of any reporter turning down a pay rise. They’re paying me this because this is what I’m worth — and I’m proud I’m worth it.”

You Say

3 responses to this article

Mark C Jeffries 1 November 2018 at 7:38 pm

Walters was not successful as an evening news presenter and she disappeared from the Sunday morning panel interview “Issues and Answers” (which is now known as “This Week”), but her prime time interview specials continued for decades (most notably as the prelude to the annual telecast of the Oscars) and in the mid-90s created and originally presented a morning show called “The View,” with an all-female panel of various ages and perspectives, which still screens on ABC every weekday morning and has garnered imitations both in the U.S. and worldwide (uh, like, say, “Loose Women”). Walters is now retired, her place in U.S. broadcasting history secure.

Mark C Jeffries 1 November 2018 at 7:40 pm

I forgot to mention that Walters also presented ABC’s weekly newsmagazine “20/20” for many years along with Hugh Downs, the veteran broadcaster with whom she had been originally paired on the “Today” show as “The Today Girl.”

Chad H 4 November 2018 at 11:32 pm

Never thought it was possible to write an article that is both snobby, and insanely jealous at the same time

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