Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 9, 2014

JEFFREY McCALL: Barbara Walters a TV personality, not a journalist

Calling her iconic, legendary exaggerates her status

(Continued)

Television critic Karl Meyer wrote at the time of ABC’s decision to put Walters on the news anchor desk, “It further blurs the distinction between journalism and entertainment.” Entertainers made huge money, not journalists. Entertainers were celebrities, journalists were supposed to be — journalists.

ABC then made the wise decision to let Walters shine in prime time doing soft interviews on “20/20” and hosting specials. She developed a following of viewers who wanted to know more about high-profile luminaries than just their stances on issues. The viewers, less likely to be newshounds, found Walters’ conversational interviewing style to be quite watchable, even if the questions focused more on personal angles and emotion than real news.

Her “Most Fascinating People” shows were annual ratings draws. Fascination is in the eyes of the beholder, but one has to wonder what Walters found fascinating in some of her picks. Camilla Parker Bowles was the most fascinating person of 2005. Honey Boo Boo made the list in 2012. Prince George made the list last year, even though he had yet to cut his first tooth. The Kardashians and Miley Cyrus made the list twice. Such selections provided cultural legitimacy for people who were more carnival attractions than fascinating. Even though these shows were produced by ABC News, this was not the stuff of journalism.

Walters was a pioneer in the sense that she helped develop the world of infotainment, the unhealthy mix of news and entertainment. She was the first “news” person to get paid the superstar money. She interviewed many world leaders, including every president in the last 50 years. She succeeded as a woman in an industry that has been largely dominated by males. Her career is noteworthy, to be sure, but calling her legendary and iconic simply exaggerates her status.

ABC has announced plans to name its New York news headquarters in her honor. ABC must have forgotten that legitimate journalists, such as Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds, also used to work at ABC. Given that Walters was more television personality than television journalist, the canonization that comes with building naming seems out of proportion.

Jeffrey M. McCall is a professor of communication at DePauw University in Greencastle. Contact him at jeffmccall@depauw.edu.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Columns
  • DAN COATS: New Harmony marks its 200th anniversary Situated between St. Louis and Louisville, New Harmony is a small town in southwest Indiana smaller than 1 square mile in area. Fewer than 1,000 Hoosiers call this serene Posey County community home.Despite its size, the town has monumental significa

    July 31, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Let's put lethal injection to sleep

    It was only a matter of time before this happened again; and I’m sad to say I’m not surprised at all.
    On July 22, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for the killing of Arizona death row inmate James R. Wood III, who had filed suit requesting a delay until the state revealed the details of the drugs that would be used to end his life.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • ANDREA NEAL: Fleeting canal era had lasting impact on state Editor’s note: This is one in a series of essays leading up to the celebration of the Indiana Bicentennial in December 2016. In 1825, the Erie Canal was completed to great fanfare. Cannon fire, parades, balls and speeches celebrated the speed and ski

    July 30, 2014

  • TOM LoBIANCO: Pence, Bayh crowd field with questions In the 2016 political landscape, a pair of the state's political big dogs -- Republican Gov. Mike Pence and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh -- have potential candidates holding their breath and waiting on them. Until Pence says otherwise, he's

    July 29, 2014

  • JEFFREY McCALL: All things Hillary are not news, just distractions This column has nothing to do with who should or will win the presidential election in 2016. It has nothing to do with partisan politics of any flavor. This column does, however, assess how television is oversaturating the "news" agenda with countles

    July 29, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: World is rising up to meet Putin's thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 28, 2014

  • DICK WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 28, 2014

  • ED VASICEK: Happy marriages do not just happen My wife, Marylu, and I met through a mutual friend. My wife had been involved with Campus Crusade at her university, where my friend, Norman, also attended. One Christmas break, Norman invited his friends from church (including me) to a party — along

    July 27, 2014

  • MICHAEL HICKS: Truth about inflation Almost nothing in economics seems to confuse people as much as monetary inflation. That confusion leaves an intellectual void into which some of the least credible ideas of the modern world crawl.Goods and services typically have a price dictated in

    July 27, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Some laws will do us in In my opinion, we have made laws that are contrary to what they were intended. And this writer is going to let you in on his thoughts about them. One of the things that has been processed incorrectly is the child abuse law. When you tell the parent h

    July 26, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller