Barbara Walters insists she’s fine with letting go. The iconic journalist notes that leaving daily television is her call. She’ll do that Friday – officially Barbara Walters Day in New York – with her last regular appearance on ABC’s “The View” (though she’ll still executive produce the show with longtime associate Bill Geddie) and a two-hour retrospective from 9 to 11 p.m. that night.
“I’m fine,” maintains Walters, who worked at CBS and NBC (famously on “Today”) previously. “Nobody’s forcing me out. It’s not like with David Letterman, where younger people are nipping at his heels. It’s a decision I made a long while ago.”
Among other highlights of Walters’ sign-off: a big party in her honor; a gathering of every co-host “The View” has had, on the program’s telecast Thursday; and the dedication of ABC News’ newly-named-for-Walters headquarters.
The prime-time farewell special is, Walters said, “much more conversation about how I felt about different interviews. It’s not, ‘And then I interviewed him, and then I interviewed her … .’ I did that a few years ago on ‘20/20,’ so this will be more the background and the untold stories.”
Walters points out that she “will continue to be a member of ABC News, so that if there are special things I want to do, I can. And I will still go in one or two days a week as an executive producer of ‘The View.’ I will continue to make decisions about who’s on and who’s hired as a host, so my relationship with it will be the same. What it won’t be is getting up at 6:30 in the morning [to appear on it].”
The other “View” hosts haven’t treated Walters differently as her on-camera exit approaches, she maintains.
“I haven’t felt that it’s affected them at all,” she said. “Remember, I’m still doing it. When I leave, Bill and I then have to make a decision as to who we will add to the cast. We want the ladies to get along with them and like them. And I’m not sure we may not want to add a man!”
Having joined ABC in 1976, when she became the first female co-anchor on a network evening newscast, Walters has seen many transitions.
“I’m sad that we don’t have a regular newsmagazine,” she reflects. “ ‘20/20’ has become a different kind of program, but people’s tastes have changed, and their attention span has changed. Also, I didn’t moderate ‘The View’ because I was doing ‘20/20’ every week; instead, I chose moderators like Meredith Vieira, Rosie O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg.”
As for the annual year-end “10 Most Fascinating People” special that has been another of her ABC trademarks, Walters admits its future is uncertain. “The network wanted me to do it this year, even though I’m leaving, and I decided I didn’t want to. Truthfully, at the moment, I can’t think of 10 most fascinating people [for 2014]. We’ve done so many major leaders of the world, so many huge movie stars … it’s something that belongs to us, but we’ve made the decision not to do it this year.”
Now, with numerous honors including 11 Emmy Awards and a presence in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, Walters is ready for her next chapter.
“You have to leave sometime,” she said. “Maybe you don’t, but I think you do. And I wanted to leave while I was still valuable and the audience wasn’t saying, ‘Is she still here?’ This is, for me, a very good and natural transition.”