TV Critics Evaluate Barbara Walters’ Legacy

By Merrill Knox 

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As Barbara Walters gears up for her retirement next year, television critics are beginning to weigh in on the legacy she leaves behind in television. The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley calls Walters “television personified”:

Intuitively, knowingly or just luckily, Ms. Walters has moved — and is moving — in concert with tastes and audiences and real influence. She defected from nighttime to daytime just as many viewers were doing the same … And now, as more and more viewers leave broadcast television altogether, so does she.

Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams praises Walters for being first in “nearly everything about women in television news”:

And if television news is still frequently a hollow, sexist echo chamber, don’t blame Barbara. She showed everything that’s possible for a woman of brains and ambition in an industry that has little use for women with either.

Williams’ Salon colleague Alex Pareene takes the opposing viewpoint, calling Walters’ career “an extended exercise in sycophancy and unalloyed power worship”:

Her habit of using her position to protect and cover for some of the worst abusers of power in the world should also be remembered as we are forced to spend the next year celebrating her achievements. It’s actually remarkable how, in a city and an industry full of very powerful people, not all of whom are corrupt monsters, Walters has consistently grown close to the worst that the elite has to offer, from Steinbrenner to Trump.

Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel says Walters can “take great pride” in her career:

When Walters faced setbacks, she improvised and moved forward. She wanted to connect with viewers, whether the platform was “20/20,” an Oscar night special or “The View.” She wasn’t snooty about the news. She embraced reporting it in many forms.