The Microphone Without Barbara Walters

Eugenia Abu

I sat staring for the longest at the fat book which is Barbara Walters autobiography titled Audition. I had bought the white, gold and black hardcover book at a bookstore in America along with several others.
Over the years, I have come to revere books so much, I often buy a hardcover over a paperback because I believe they become part of the architecture of my well adorned book shelves.

Where I can afford it, I buy limited editions, books bound in leather or even chrome, books personally signed by authors. This book collection activity has become a fetish. But if you are a book person, you will understand.
And if you are a broadcaster in addition to being a book person like I am privileged to be, then a Barbara Walters book is a must buy as was Oprah’s unauthorised biography by Kitty Kelly which sits above my head in a bookshelf in my office.
Barbara retired once or twice but, she always returned to her love of all times the microphone, either helping out on a new programme or being called out by networks
I am a broadcaster and it is my business to know how other broadcasters manage the unrelenting hours, the challenging workspace, the difficult bosses, the supportive bosses, mean spirited colleagues, fine workmates, ridiculous subordinates, respectful mentees, the kindness of strangers, the toxic environment and the add- on, recognition on the street, obsessive fans, well spirited followers and the high intensity work schedule as well as work life balance.
I wanted to improve on my job. I wanted to work hard and also learn from the masters, I wanted to understand the emotional side of being a broadcaster and how the men and women before me both at home and abroad managed. And so began my broadcast book collection.
Most of them are Biographies and autobiographies, from Oprah by Kitty Kelly to Audition by Barbara Walters.

I picked up the book by Parkinson and bought Trevor Noah’s autobiography, “Born a Crime” as well as books by anchors across the world including one by Linda Ellerbee titled And so it goes, as well as How to talk to anyone, anywhere by Larry King.
I read and bought other books relating to entertainers and public figures. I did not want to have to fall down and not know how to stand up in this assignment of broadcasting that is fully public.
I did not want to be the subject of gossip or stories that were scandalous. I became slowly a broadcaster who was wary of being broadcasted. The stories of my forebears locally and internationally were intriguing to say the least.
I read voraciously and continue to learn from other broadcasters how to do the work, fall on your face and stand up again in the face of a critical audience.
Of all the books I got, Barbara Walter’s Audition was one of the most exciting. I sat looking at this massive book I have read twice about an internationally recognised broadcast icon and understood the meaning of the word legendary when she passed. Even her passing was on a date so surreal, it could have been scripted into Television… 2 days before 2023. 30th December 2022. The iconic Barbara Walters was 93.

Barbara Walters life reads like a movie, from being married thrice to being the first woman in United States history in 1974 to co-host a daily show, The Today show and the first broadcaster to sign a one-million-dollar annual contract for five years with a television station in all of America.
Her biography Audition tells us her competitive nature, her doggedness, her strategic and hardworking nature and her tenacity in breaking new grounds in interviewing, talking to an array of celebrities, Heads of states, influential men and women, she became ultimately the interview Goddess, giving her skills, showing the way, entertaining audiences and mentoring broadcasters particularly young women as she went along.
She started her Television career as a writer and researcher, later on becoming a phenomenal news anchor before becoming a much sought after talk show Host.
It was Barbara Walters who created the award winning, The View, an all women talk show which discussed current issues and interviewed scores of persons from celebrities to government and non- state actors.
Her cast of co-hosts included the award-winning actress Whoopie Goldberg. From this Talk show she won two Emmy’s and a Peabody. Before the view, she had created The Barbara Walter specials,20/20 and other interview programmes across networks.

Barbara hugged the limelight easily and was not intimidated by any high-level person or President because she was born into entertainment. Her Father was a nightclub owner who attracted the best Entertainers in her growing up years.
Her journalistic streak is apparent in her autobiography, blazing and detailed descriptions of the many houses she lived in as a young girl and vivid descriptions of the men she had dated.
Barbara’s story in Audition reads true of many successful persons, the highs and lows, but more importantly, she gave hope through her life to many broadcasters.
Her fights to keep her position, get out of a contract, manage toxic colleagues or bosses, suffer heartaches and heartbreaks, suffer grief and celebrations makes her as human as everyone else even though broadcasting had made her larger than life.
Most of her pictures and images across the media is of her holding a microphone or sitting beside a celebrity or a head of state.
The lure of that piece of equipment that amplifies one’s voice and gives one a paramount position in any gathering or makes one an important figure amongst the high and the low is what keeps Broadcasters going.
The fact that a Broadcaster never really retires kept Barbara working well into her Eighties until her health began to deteriorate.
That microphone calls your name and sometimes you do it to enchant, to remember, to support and to earn a living. It is not always about the money, it is mostly about the pedigree of memories, your voice ringing through the minds and hearts of young persons who wish to be like you or even ordinary people who want to have a voice…to be heard, taken seriously and engaged with.
Barbara retired once or twice but, she always returned to her love of all times the microphone, either helping out on a new programme or being called out by networks to give her star power to a programme.
The daughter of an Entertainer became a television icon and held faith for over six decades. The microphone will miss her and those of us for whom she opened doors in the field remain thankful to her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *