NEW YORK (Reuters) - Barbara Walters, famed for celebrity television interviews that often draw on-screen tears, says she’s tired of Britney, Paris and the tabloid trend she helped create.
Walters, a pioneering journalist who became the first female U.S. network news anchor 30 years ago, has interviewed every U.S. president since Richard Nixon and other heads of state. More recently, she has been credited and criticized for soft interviews that elevated celebrity news above all else.
Now, before her annual show, “The 10 Most Fascinating People,” airing on ABC on Thursday, the 78-year-old television journalist said she wants to focus on other topics.
“I am not going after the tabloid stuff, I don’t do it,” she said in an interview.
She said her latest special did not consider Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, abandoning the “week in, week out, competition for getting the next name, the next person out of rehab.”
Instead, expect to see former President Bill Clinton, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, two founders of the Internet network “My Space,” and controversial radio host Don Imus.
After years of chasing exclusives on her old ABC newsmagazine show “20/20,” Walters says she is tired of trying to compete with the tide of celebrity news.
“It seems to permeate most of the tabloids and the magazines and now you have six or seven entertainment programs,” she said. “You didn’t used to have that.
“It’s a different climate now and 20/20 and the other magazines are focused on the big celebrities. I didn’t want to keep doing that, I have been doing it for years.”
Walters, whose interviews with Michael Jackson and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky drew huge audiences, makes no apologies for the “personality journalism” she forged.
“We began to do more and more celebrities and we were criticized,” she said. “And now ... every program does it.”
It’s the ratings, stupid.
“The world has changed and you watch every program now and there are even interviews with heads of state where there is more interest in their personality and their background,” she said.
Rejecting this aspect of the American culture he otherwise admires, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stormed out of a CBS “60 Minutes” interview in October when asked about his marital problems.
Walters’ political interviews have included Boris Yeltsin, Margaret Thatcher and Saddam Hussein.
Now semi-retired, the former “Today” host says she still has to fight for interviews, but her reputation helps.
“I have been doing it for so many years, and I keep my word,” she said.
Editing by Doina Chiacu