Barbara Walters: Michael O'Neill
Gary Susman
January 24, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Don’t call it a retirement. Barbara Walters will still be making celebrities cry, just not on a weekly basis. After 25 years, the ABC News stalwart is stepping down as anchor of ”20/20.” ”Starting in September, I want to have more flexibility in my life without the responsibilities of a weekly newsmagazine,” the 74-year-old newswoman said in a statement. She’ll still host six primetime interview specials each year (including her annual pre-Oscar chat special), and she’ll continue to produce and cohost her daytime panel show ”The View.”

Walters, who has proven equally comfortable interviewing world leaders, Hollywood stars, and people made famous by scandals, suggested that the changing nature of TV news and its audience helped motivate her decision to leave the newsmagazine. She told the New York Times that there is increasing pressure for news shows to cater to young viewers who ”don’t know heads of state and they’re not interested.” In 2002, she noted: ”We did [Fidel] Castro and it was a huge interview. But we did much better in the ratings with Courteney Cox and David Arquette.” She said she was also troubled by the trend toward packaging, where entertainment conglomerates dangle offers of TV specials, book deals, and movies in order to entice potential interview subjects to appear on network newsmagazines. ”It’s very new and very worrisome,” she told the Times. ”Even alleged murderers have agents now.”

You May Like