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Title: Audition A Memoir
Author: Barbara Walters
Copyright: © 2008
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House
Relevance: Barbara Walters, in this extensive memoir, outlines how and why she got started in the broadcasting business. Audition is a must-have for every broadcasting student who wants to break into the business.
Review: Barbara Walters, by her own admission, has spent her entire life auditioning for her roles on TV. She spends the first 100 or so pages of her 600-page tome outlining how her father, the famous Lou Walters, and mother, as well as her mentally challenged sister, Jackie, formed her into the broadcast powerhouse she is today.
It is difficult not to understand the depth of "connectedness" with which Ms. Walters feels to her family, her friends and her past. She hasn't written her memoir with aspiring journalists primarily in mind although there are several lessons both large and small that can be gleaned from her book.
From an early age, for example, Ms. Walters felt a high degree of responsibility towards her family and the value and turmoil created when taking risks (as well as not taking them). Her father was the archetypical risk-taking entrepreneur who made and lost several fortunes in early show business, particularly in the live act vaudeville and post-vaudeville eras. From this, Ms. Walters learned how money could be made and lost within a very mercurial industry and that simple hard work is not necessarily a guarantee to long-term success.
Another gem that Ms. Walters imparts is the value of networking and connections within the industry. Clearly, the author would not be where she is today and would not have been able to break into broadcasting as a woman within a generation that this was unthought of without relying heavily on not only the connections she made through personal relationships at her father's night clubs, but also understanding at a deep level just how important personal relationships were in business. We see this commitment to personal relationships throughout the hundreds of interviews that she mentions in her book, as well as the ones we've seen personally during her decades of broadcasting exposure.
Filled with many personal accounts of how the young journalist was influenced including brief and some not so brief explanations of the many personal relationships that she has had, the book serves those who want to know what makes Ms. Walters tick well. The book is not a prescriptive for aspiring journalism students to "do what she did". Instead, Audition A Memoir illustrates the long and interesting road one particular journalist has traveled.
Another lesson imparted to readers is the importance of tenacity. There are frequent examples of how aspiring journalists must really take any job that they are offered in broadcasting and as Walters says, "Work your fanny off". Another gem: "Be in place". In other words, work long hours, don't worry about the clock, do the job, get noticed, be there in case things go wrong and help pick up the pieces.
Again, what worked and continues to work for Ms. Walters may not necessarily work for aspiring journalists today given the far different broadcast and media landscape, nor does Walters suggest anything of the sort. We found, however, that many of the examples can prove very thought provoking and continue to ring true despite, in some cases, their decades-old application.
Walters became famous as "the lady journalist", but this of course belies her remarkable talent, research ability and perhaps most of all, her uncanny ability to put even the most famous, gruff or dare we say it, pathological leader, entertainer or other notable at ease and willing to spill it all on camera.
In all, the book is about a smart, funny and driven woman who has managed to succeed in what once was exclusively a man's world. While females in journalism are commonplace now, this definitely wasn't the case when Ms. Walters was on the ascendancy. She broke many barriers and paved the way for all young journalists both men and women. Her interview style has been copied repeatedly by those who have followed, but this shouldn't diminish the appreciable contribution she's made to the craft of journalism.
Overall: We were quite impressed with Audition A Memoir. It both humanizes and lays raw the personal life of an icon who has contributed much to broadcasting and entertainment. Barbara Walters is inarguably one of the most important and powerful women in American broadcasting today and has shown what has worked for her and might prove inspirational for others who follow. Recommended.
End of Review
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