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Looking Back at Barbara Walters’ History-Making Nightly News Job

Variety logo Variety 4/21/2017 Tim Gray
© Provided by Variety

Barbara Walters made television history in 1976 as the first woman to anchor a nightly newscast at a time when the three networks were the principal source of information for many Americans. Walters was paid a then-remarkable sum of $1 million a year, for five years.

To mark the show’s launch on Oct. 4, 1976, ABC News hosted a press conference and luncheon at Manhattan’s Tavern on the Green with Walters and her co-anchor, Harry Reasoner. As Variety reported: “Most of the questioning was aimed at Walters, who was asked to explain her high salary.” However, Walters “refused to condemn herself for taking the fee that was offered.” Toward the end of the afternoon, Walters walked over to Reasoner’s table, saying “she had spent most of her time answering what she would wear for the first show, so she thought it only fair for Reasoner to reveal his own clothes. He mumbled something about a dark suit and dark tie.”

Reasoner referred to them as “the first heterosexual anchor team” on network TV, but it wasn’t an easy marriage, with Walters later reporting that she felt hostility from him and from others on the broadcast. The team dissolved after two years, and it was another 15 years before another woman was named an anchor, when Connie Chung and Dan Rather debuted on CBS.

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