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Barbara Walters to Leave 20/20 News Program
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Groundbreaking U.S. television newswoman Barbara Walters will step down as co-host and chief correspondent of ABC’s ’20/20′ news magazine in September, ending her 25-year association with the program, the network said on Sunday.
Walters, who has interviewed people ranging from Richard Nixon to Fidel Castro to Martha Stewart, said in a statement posted on ABC News’s Web site she was leaving the program earlier than expected to “have more flexibility in my life without the responsibilities of a weekly news magazine.”
The network, which is owned by Walt Disney Co., said Walters will remain an active member of its news division and “substantially increase” the number of prime-time news specials she does.
Walters will also will continue to oversee specials produced by her own production company, and remain executive producer and co-host of ‘The View’ daytime talk show.
Walters joined ABC News in 1976, becoming the first woman to co-host the network news, and later joined anchor Hugh Downs as co-host of 20/20 in 1984.
Along the way, she interviewed every U.S. president and first lady since Nixon, and sat down with other leaders including Cuba’s Castro, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.
Increasingly, she also emerged as an interviewer of choice for celebrities caught in the media glare, conducting the first televised interviews with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in 2000 and indicted home decorating guru Martha Stewart this year.
Walters still had more than a year remaining on her ’20/20′ contract and is negotiating a new, long-term agreement to stay with ABC News, a network spokeswoman said.