Thursday, October 23, 2014

Walters’ pioneering spirit left lasting legacy on journalism

5/19/2014

Pioneers leave a legacy without meaning to do so — simply by being the first to go down a path. Such journeys rarely are easy since they often are laced with obstacles, fear and skepticism. Pioneering requires a willingness to move forward in spite of fear.

Kansas has a number of female pioneers, some whose names we have come to know. Consider Laura Ingalls Wilder of “Little House on the Prairie” fame; Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Lucinda Todd, a teacher and parent who wanted her black daughter to attend non-black public schools in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case; and Carrie Nation, the temperance activist.

Pioneers leave a legacy without meaning to do so — simply by being the first to go down a path. Such journeys rarely are easy since they often are laced with obstacles, fear and skepticism. Pioneering requires a willingness to move forward in spite of fear.

Kansas has a number of female pioneers, some whose names we have come to know. Consider Laura Ingalls Wilder of “Little House on the Prairie” fame; Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Lucinda Todd, a teacher and parent who wanted her black daughter to attend non-black public schools in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case; and Carrie Nation, the temperance activist.

Still other strong Kansas women went about the work of creating homes, churches, schools and communities from scratch. These trailblazers laid the groundwork for later opportunities for those who followed to build upon their successes.

Of course, Kansans aren’t the only ones who took the road less traveled and made history. In broadcast journalism, Barbara Walters was the first female co-anchor of ABC News. Though Walters attracted a lot of attention for her $1 million salary, there was no guarantee her high profile wound equal audience. Indeed her co-anchor, Harry Reasoner, didn’t want a partner of any kind. Walters termed that gig a failure, though she fortunately found success in her ever-popular prime-time specials. She later went on to develop a long-running, woman-centric talk show, “The View.”

Walters clearly knocked down doors in her career and created the gold standard for future broadcast journalists to follow. Today, hundreds of female journalists link their success to the courageous stands and credible example shown by Walters. At 84, the news legend retired Friday following more than 50 years as a TV personality.

During her pioneering career, she interviewed everyone from glamorous celebrities to world leaders and every U.S. president since Richard Nixon. She asked tough questions, all while having a heart. She set a new standard that differed from those displayed by male journalists. In the process, she made her industry better.

Walters, like other pioneers, leaves behind a legacy of innovation, which continues to build upon itself through the work of others as boundaries are extended, and breeds more pioneers — those unafraid of risks or at least with the courage to move forward in spite of the fear.

Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher

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