[The Fountain] ‘Follow your bliss,’ said the legend

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[The Fountain] ‘Follow your bliss,’ said the legend

The author is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Barbara Walters, an American broadcaster, who was called “the legend of interviews” and a “pioneer of journalism,” passed away at the end of 2022. It’s a name you would have heard of at least once, even if you’re not in the media industry.

She has countless successful interviews with figures like Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the masterpiece was her interview with Monica Lewinsky in 1999. Lewinsky was at the center of the sex scandal which drove President Bill Clinton to impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Walters is known for asking questions other interviewers might be reluctant to ask. In the interview with Lewinsky, she asked, “You showed the president your thong underwear. Where did you get the nerve?” and “Do you still love him?” During this interview, Lewinsky apologized to Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea. Seventy-four million viewers watched the interview, the highest-ever rating for a news program.

Walters broke the glass ceiling in 1961 by becoming the first-ever female news anchor in America. She was born during the Great Depression in 1929 and lived 93 years. She spent 52 years as a journalist. While she officially retired in 2014 at 85, her last interview was with Donald Trump in December 2015.

Her secret to staying in the field well into the ‘80s was her talent and effort, but what kept her in the industry for so long was that she chose the career that made her happy.

When journalist Katie Couric published “The Best Advice I Ever Got,” a collection of essays by successful people, Walters sent the following. “In college, I had a well-known professor whose advice was: ‘Follow your bliss.’ Practical application: Decide what you really would love to do … would do even if you didn’t get paid. (But get paid.) Get a job in that industry or business. Start at any level. Get there first in the morning. Leave last at night. Fetch the coffee. Follow your bliss … but don’t sleep with your boss. You will succeed.” That is the story of her career from a PR officer to a news writer to a journalist.

In her speech at Harvard University, she said that the most important quality for a journalist is curiosity. In the ABC News documentary “Our Barbara,” she revealed the process of preparing for interviews: studying the interviewees deeper than they know themselves, preparing hundreds of questions and thoroughly understanding them in case she might have to throw away the questionnaire.

“I was so busy with a career. It’s the age-old problem. And, you know, on your deathbed, are you going to say, ‘I wish I spent more time in the office?’ No. You’ll say, ‘I wish I spent more time with my family.’ And I do feel that way,” she said.

In the new year, we have new resolutions. As Walters did, let’s believe that if we follow our bliss, other things will follow.
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