Like most industries in the American workforce, women had to integrate into television broadcasting jobs as well. Even though women could be found on television via Hollywood actresses, women were hardly found or seen presenting news. Those jobs were dominated by men. Names like Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel, Edward Murrow, and Peter Jennings are all household names, but the names of women aren’t as recognized.
Nevertheless, women were, and have always played, an integral part in the history of American broadcast television. The journey women would take to become visible and notable figures in American broadcasting would come to actualization during the 1970’s and many of those trailblazing women are still relevant today.
These are some important women in broadcast television history:
8. Connie Chung
Starting out as a correspondent, Chung became the first Asian-American local news anchorwoman for CBS Los Angeles, and second woman to host CBS’ Nightly News. Chung would also sign a contract with NBC, but returned to CBS to host her own show Face to Face with Connie Chung and even had another show of her own on CNN for a short while. Chung is an Emmy-winning journalist.
7. Oprah Winfrey
Before she became the talk show queen, Oprah started out as a news anchorwoman in Baltimore in 1976. She then got her break in 1984 when she became a news anchor for ABC Eyewitness News in Chicago. After leaving her job as an anchorwoman she became the first black woman to have her own talk show. The Oprah Winfrey Show was one of the longest-running syndicated daytime talk shows before it ended in May 2011. Oprah is a household name and her show allowed her to build an empire making her a billionaire.
6. Katie Couric
Now the host of her own talk show on ABC, not many people know that Couric was the first woman to solo host CBS Evening News when she took over in 2006. She spent most of her career working with NBC, but she now hosts Katie, as well as other ABC news shows and is a global news anchor for Yahoo News.
5. Charlayne Hunter-Gault
In 1977, she became the first black woman to become a correspondent on national television. Hunter-Gault was introduced to the world as a contributing correspondent on the MacNeil/Lehrer report, and would become a regular face on the show. She was also a civil rights pioneer.
4. Pauline Frederick
Pauline Frederick is a pioneering woman in broadcast and radio. She was the first woman to be a correspondent and broke down barriers for most of her career. Frederick started out working for ABC, but would spend most of her broadcasting career as a United Nations correspondent for NBC. After retiring from NBC, she would continue working in journalism. Frederick was also the first woman to moderate a presidential debate—she moderated the 1976 debate between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
3. Robin Roberts
Known as the vibrant host of ABC’s Good Morning America, not many people know that Robin Roberts started out as an anchor for Sportscenter on ESPN. This job would make Roberts the first black woman to be an on-air anchorwoman for the network.
2. Diane Sawyer
Now the host of ABC’s World News, this former beauty queen first started her career in broadcasting as a weather girl. Sawyer began as a White House press aide during Nixon’s presidency. After Nixon’s resignation she would soon become co-host on the Morning News show for CBS. This would lead her to 60 Minutes where she would become the shows first woman correspondent. After leaving CBS she joined ABC where she hosts a myriad of news shows, one of the most popular, Good Morning America. She currently is the host of ABC’s World News and is the only woman to host the show on her own.
1. Barbara Walters
If there’s any woman who has achieved and changed the face of broadcast television in a revolutionary way, it is Barbara Walters. Walters was the first woman to sign a contract with a major news network when she did so with ABC in 1976 as an evening news anchorwoman. She was the first woman to co-anchor for an evening news show, and would later host morning TV shows like Today and The View. She would move onto shows like ABC’s 20/20 where she would gain more popularity. In her longstanding and current career, Walters would interview Presidents, First Ladies, world leaders, controversial figures, and even entertainers. She announced retirement last year and plans to step down from TV in 2014. Walters probably has the most impressive and prolific career in broadcast television and has secured her place in the history books.