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NEW YORK — Barbara Walters plans to retire next year, ending a television career that began more than a half century ago and made her a trailblazer in news and daytime TV.
Someone who works closely with Walters said the plan is for her to retire in May 2014 after a series of special programs saluting her career. The person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity today.
Walters, 83, was hospitalized earlier this year after falling and cutting her head while leaving a party in Washington and remained out of work after developing the chickenpox. Largely retired from ABC News already, her main work is at “The View,” the daytime hit she created in 1997.
Her television career began in 1961 when she was hired as a writer for the “Today” show. She graduated quickly to on-air work and became the show's co-host before leaving in 1976 to become co-anchor of ABC's evening news with Harry Reasoner — the first woman in such a role for a television network.
The pairing ended quickly and Walters settled into a role as ABC News’ cajoler-in-chief, competing ferociously to land newsmaking interviews with heads of state and stars of the day. She regularly did interview specials, including an annual show with the most fascinating people of the year, and was co-host of “20/20” for two decades, much of the time with Hugh Downs.
She described “The View” as the “dessert” of her career, a regular gathering of women chatting about the hot topics of the day and interviewing visiting presidents and actors eager to reach a daytime audience. Walters appeared semi-regularly as one of the hosts.
“The View” faces a transition continuing without Walters and also the last remaining original host, Joy Behar, who recently announced she was stepping down.
Walters underwent heart surgery in 2010, turning the experience into a prime-time special, “A Matter of Life and Death,” featuring interviews with fellow heart patients Bill Clinton and David Letterman.
ABC news and entertainment representatives would not comment today and Walters’ publicist, Cindi Berger, did not immediately return requests for comment.
It wasn't clear when Walters would announce her plans. Late spring is the time TV networks generally reveal their plans for the upcoming year so advertisers can lock in commercial time.
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