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Pioneer US TV anchor Barbara Walters to retire

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Celebrated US journalist Barbara Walters, as famous for blazing trails for women in TV news as she is for her political and celebrity interviews, officially announced Monday her retirement next year.

"In the summer of 2014, a year from now, I plan to retire from appearing on television at all," Walters, 83, announced on "The View," the late-morning talk show she co-hosts on ABC television.

"It has been an absolutely joyful, rewarding, challenging, fascinating and occasionally bumpy ride. I wouldn't change a thing," she said.

"I'm perfectly healthy, this is my decision. I've been thinking about it for a long time and this is what I want to do."

Walters began her career in 1961 at NBC's breakfast news and entertainment show "Today," making a household name for herself before bolting to ABC to co-anchor its main evening newscast -- a first for a female journalist.

In 1997 she launched "The View," a daytime talk show pitched at women of diverse backgrounds featuring an all-female panel discussing issues of the day. Such is its reach that it is a must-visit stop for US presidential candidates.

Over the years Walters has interviewed leaders like Cuba's Fidel Castro, Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin (side-by-side for the first time) and every US president and first lady since Richard Nixon.

She also made her name interviewing a raft of Hollywood celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie and Justin Bieber.

Until she retires Walters will continue to anchor and report for ABC News, appear on "The View," and host specials, said ABC, a unit of the Walt Disney Company.

These include a "20 Years of 10 Most Fascinating People" special in December, a special on the Oscars, and a retrospective on her career. She will also remain executive producer of "The View."

"I will come back, I'm not walking into the sunset," she told her live studio audience Monday that included Disney supremo Bob Iger.

"But I don't want to appear on another program, I don't want to climb another mountain. I want instead to sit in a sunny field and admire the very gifted women -- and some men, too -- who will be taking my place."

She was more direct when speaking about retirement to the New York Times: "I don't want to do any more interviews. I don't want to do any other programs. I'm not joining CNN. This is it."

Several US news media reported in March that Walters was poised to retire, but she responded on "The View" on April 1 that "I have no announcement" and that "if and when" she did have something to say, it would be on the program.

Boston-born Walters said she more than anyone else is surprised she had such a successful career, given how "I wasn't beautiful" and that she always had trouble pronouncing the letter R.

Walters was famously lampooned for that speech impediment -- and her penchant for self promotion -- in the late 1970s as "Baba Wawa" by the late comedian Gilda Radner on the NBC comedy show "Saturday Night Live."

Radner rose to fame for that series of sketches, but it took years for the real Walters to smile at it.

"Years later, when Gilda died, I sent her husband (actor Gene Wilder) a sympathy note and signed it Barbara Wawa," Walters told the New York Daily News in 2012.

"Gilda was so wonderful -- the sketch immortalized me -- but at the time I wasn't so thrilled."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130513/pioneer-us-tv-anchor-barbara-walters-retire-1