Oprah Talks to Barbara Walters
Oprah: You've sat at the center of the world, doing what you do, and for so many years. I've said what a mentor you've been for me. Had there not been you, there never would have been me. Do you feel like the leader on the frontier?
Barbara: No, because I didn't deliberately pave the way. I wasn't Gloria Steinem. When I look back at the kinds of things I wasn't allowed to do when I began as a writer, even on the Today show...
Oprah: What year?
Barbara: Around 1960. I could write only the so-called female pieces. The big breakthrough was when I could write for men. I remember when I was there with an anchorman named Frank McGee. He had to ask three hard-news questions before I could ask one.
Barbara: I also remember writing to the president of NBC News and saying, "We should do something on the women's movement." And he wrote back, "Not enough interest." Now I'm very encouraging and admiring of women. The other night I was on with [CNN anchor] Paula Zahn and I said, "I feel I'm your fairy godmother." I feel that way about quite a few of the younger people on the air. And I want to say something else. There's been a rumor rattling around for years, and it drives Diane Sawyer and me crazy. It's been said that we're competitive because Roone Arledge [the late president of ABC News] brought Diane over to do a newsmagazine show, and I did a newsmagazine. I just want to say that I have such admiration for Diane. We feel very good about each other. Always have. We can laugh together. This whole business that we've always been out to kill each other is such an old story. We're sick of it.
Oprah: So you've been competitors with respect for each other.
Barbara: Great respect. If I don't get the interview, I want Diane to get it. I think she feels the same way.
Oprah: That rumor never would've happened about men.
Barbara: If Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings competed, we'd never hear about it. But we still have these clichés.
Oprah: I was in broadcasting when you made the move to do the ABC Evening News. I remember your first night on the air like it was happening to me.
Barbara: Then you must have felt awful. It must have been the worst time of your professional life. You must have been thinking, "I'm drowning and there's no life preserver."
Oprah: No, no. Barbara, do you remember that this was the biggest deal? A million dollars.
Barbara: I keep saying this, and no one is listening. I did not get a million dollars for doing the news, which is what everyone thought. And I'm not saying that a million dollars isn't a great deal. It is. But I made $500,000 to do the news—with Harry Reasoner, my unwilling coanchor. Then I made another $500,000 to do four one-hour prime-time specials. The first special had Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter and Barbra Streisand. But everybody seized on the million dollars. One magazine headline said SHE'S A FLOP. When I saw the editor, I said, "That's so painful. Why would you say that?" He said, "Because, Barbara, you are a flop."
Oprah: Oh, no.
Barbara: At that point, Harry Reasoner was the bigger star. I was the upstart. I hadn't learned everything from the Associated or United Press. I was a child of television, and I was a woman. How dare I even think I could do the news?