Young TV fans who have watched Barbara Walters swap casual gossip and jokes with her pals on "The View" might not be aware of all the glass ceilings she smashed during a career that spanned more than 50 years. But for the scores of veteran female reporters she influenced and many of the newsmakers she interviewed, Walters is revered as the most important woman in the history of broadcast journalism.
"She's amazing," KGO-TV's Cheryl Jennings says of Walters, who at 84, will retire Friday. "In my world, she is and always will be a rock star."
Jennings' raves are echoed by Bay Area television peers, who use words such as "icon," "institution" and "legend" to describe Walters.
Says KNTV's Jessica Aguirre: "She arrived at a time when the thinking in this business was that the man is the king of the desk and that the woman is more or less a sidekick. Thankfully, that doesn't exist anymore -- and she helped to change it."
Indeed, Walters has been a television fixture for so long that it's easy to forget that her early success and respect was arduously earned. She was the first woman to co-host NBC's "Today" show, in 1962, and the first woman to co-anchor an evening newscast, in 1976, with ABC's Harry Reasoner, who was famously resentful of the arrangement.
Later came her namesake specials that fueled Walters' reputation as a versatile interviewer of everyone from heads of state to Hollywood stars. She went on to become the first female co-host of a prime-time news magazine -- "20/20" -- and in 1997, Walters conquered daytime television with "The View," a talk show that shook up the genre with its spicy blend of politics, pop culture and opinion.
All of that comes to an end Friday as Walters' daily on-air work concludes with a farewell party on "The View." A two-hour retrospective of her life and career is scheduled that night on ABC.
She will leave behind legions of admirers. Belva Davis, herself a TV news pioneer, recalls being in Cuba in 1977 when Fidel Castro was allowing reporters rare access. Walters was there too, along with a boat, helicopter, producers, a cameraman and a makeup artist.
"She was fulfilling all of my dreams of what it would be like to make it to the top," Davis says. "She set a high standard for what I thought wealth and fame would bring in the broadcast business."
Diane Dwyer, a veteran of 24 years with KTVU and KNTV, remembers gleaning a lesson from Walters' interviewing prowess. After conducting an on-air chat with then-Vice President Al Gore that went poorly, Dwyer sought out an article in which Walters detailed her techniques.
"She talked about how she researches her subjects like crazy and tries to find one thing about that person no one knows," Dwyer recalls. "She said, start with that and go from there."
Shortly afterward, Dwyer put that advice to use during an interview with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for which she came armed with knowledge about his lifelong love of cowboy boots.
"It changed the dynamic," Dwyer says. "It made a huge difference."
Walters, of course, was famous for doggedly pursuing the major interview. ¿Once she landed the big "get," she had a flair for coaxing her subjects to answer revealing questions.
"I always marveled at her ability to home in on and connect with an emotion that gave you real insight into the subject, whether that be sadness, anger or joy," Davis says. "She kept digging until she struck a nerve."
Aguirre recalls Walters being at the top of her game during her famous 1999 interview of Monica Lewinsky that was seen by 74 million Americans.
"That was so gripping, and so poignant in a way," Aguirre says. "I remember her asking Monica, 'What will you tell your children?' I thought that was such a great question -- and one I don't think a man would ask."
She scored another exclusive on Sunday, an interview with Shelley Sterling, wife of embattled Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling.
Aside from all of Walters' firsts, her many scoops, and her talent for personal reinvention, Aguirre thinks that a significant aspect of the icon's legacy is her durability.
"I don't think you'd have a Diane Sawyer or a Cokie Roberts if Barbara hadn't proven that you can make valuable contributions late into your career," she says. "It has been incredibly inspiring to see her, at 84, still have a meaningful presence in a business that historically has cherished youth, especially among its women."
Walters, of course, has had her detractors. Some think her rise represented the fall of respectable television journalism and fueled the blurring of news and entertainment.
Jennings curtly dismisses the critics.
"I don't know if it's jealousy, or resentment, or something else that makes some people want to slam someone so successful," she says. "The bottom line is that people kept watching, didn't they?"