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Most influential women in TV news, then and now, ranked: Katie Couric, Maria Elena Salinas, Robin Roberts, more

When Megyn Kelly officially joined NBC News with the premiere of her show "Sunday Night" on Sunday, June 4, 2017, became a member of an exclusive club — women who shattered barriers, or who had pioneering roles in network journalism. Kelly is now the highest salaried female news employee in history.

At NBC, she’ll earn a reported $15 million to $20 million, eclipsing the previous $15 million record set by Katie Couric during her CBS News run. Barbara Walters was the highest-paid network news star, though her income came from a variety of places.

Here are women who were pioneers in the field of network broadcast journalism, ranked in ascending order in terms of their influence.

27. Anne Morrissy Merick

This 1967 photo made available by ABC News
Photo Credit: AP

Covered Vietnam for ABC in January and September of 1967, eschewing battlefield coverage in favor of in-depth stories on the war — making her a pioneer in long-form TV reporting from that conflict. She died in early May at age 83.

26. Judy Woodruff

GENERATION NEXT: SPEAK UP. BE HEARD. Over next
Photo Credit: Christopher Buchanan

NBC chief White House correspondent, then PBS Washington correspondent and anchor, later at CNN from 1993 to 2003 as host of “Inside Politics”; and since 2013, anchor of “NewsHour,” a role she shared with another pioneer, Gwen Ifil, until her death last year.

25. Lynn Sherr

Author and former ABC correspondent Lynn Sherr will
Photo Credit: ABC/Steve Fenn

Sherr had a 31-year career at ABC News, where she became the longest-running female correspondent at what was to become one of the most important shows in the network’s history, “20/20.”

24. Sylvia Chase

Undated photo of newscaster Sylvia Chase

First female correspondent at “20/20,” and one of the first on any network news magazine. She quit in 1985 after an in-depth report on Marilyn Monroe’s ties to JFK was spiked by ABC News chief Roone Arledge (who was friendly with the Kennedy family).

23. Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts reports from (Vacitan City)Rome,Italy,on the worldwide
Photo Credit: ABC NEWS/Craig G. Sjodin

Became co-host of “This Week” with Sam Donaldson in 1996, succeeding David Brinkley, and only the third female anchor of a Sunday network roundtable; Martha Raddatz now holds the role.

22. Ann Compton

Ann Compton of ABC News, who is retiring
Photo Credit: AP/Charles Dharapak

 First woman assigned by a network (ABC) to be White House correspondent, for both radio and television, stepping down at ABC in 2014, after 41 years there.

21. Betty Furness

President Johnson annoucced March 4, 1967 the selection
Photo Credit: AP

Long run at the “Today” show” as a so-called “Today Girl,” and a famous run as well as a Westinghouse fridge spokes-model, but Furness also pioneered TV consumer reporting (on WNBC/4) which has become a staple across the networks and local TV. Here she is shown in 1967 after being named by President Lyndon Johnson as special assistant for consumer affairs.

20. Nancy Dickerson

Award-winning journalist and author Nancy Dickerson, shown in
Photo Credit: AP

 CBS News’ first female correspondent, in 1960, reporting from Washington for over a decade — also becoming the first female correspondent to work from the floor of a national convention. 

19. Helen Sioussat

*** ONE TIME USE ONLY for ONLINE USE
Photo Credit: CBS via Getty Images

Sioussat, who died in 1995, was longtime CBS director of talk and public affairs programming, and overseer of hundreds of radio broadcasts; but Sioussat also founded the modern TV public affairs program, when she hosted “Table Talk with Helen Sioussat,” one of the first shows to appear on any of the early proto-TV networks back in the 1940s.

18. Maria Elena Salinas

President Barack Obama participates in a town hall
Photo Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster

Salinas is an anchor of Noticiero Univision, and host of news magazine “Aqui a Ahora” As anchor of “Noticiero” since 1987, she was among the first female anchors of a network news program, and — another first — this year launched an English-language news program on Investigation Discovery. She is shown with President Barack Obama at atown hall meeting Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, in Coral Gables, Fla.

17. Carole Simpson

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.,
Photo Credit: AP/Elise Amendola

The first African-American woman to moderate a presidential debate (1992); the first African-American woman to anchor a news broadcast (at NBC; which she joined in 1975); and the first African-American to solo-anchor a network evening newscast (Weekend edition of “World News Tonight,” from ’88 to 2003.) Simpson, right, is pictured with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Feb. 4, 2008.

16. Jane Pauley

NBC-TV, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT GENE SHALIT, JANE
Photo Credit: NBC

Like Barbara Walters before her at “Today” — which she-co-anchored form 1976 to ’89 — Pauley became a symbol of professional women, but also a symbol of network news. She’d become a longtime co-anchor at “Dateline,” and was recently named host of “CBS Sunday Morning,” the first female host in its history. She is shown with Gene Shalit, left, and Tom Brokaw on the "Today" show.

 

15. Linda Ellerbee

President Clinton talks to Bill Cosby, right, and
Photo Credit: AP/Joe Marquette

A pioneer in overnight news programming at both ABC and NBC — famously signing off her shows with, “and so it goes” — Ellerbee launched “Nick News” in 1992, the first regularly scheduled national news program for children, and which ended upon her retirement in 2015. Ellerbee is pictured with President Bill Clinton, left, and Bill Cosby, right, at the White House on July 29, 1996 during a conference to discuss children's television. 

14. Lesley Stahl

In this image released by CBS News, 60
Photo Credit: CBSNews/60MINUTES/Chris Albert

The most prominent on-air female reporter in CBS News history, she joined the network in 1972, covered Watergate, then went to the White House where her prominence grew, and finally joined “60 Minutes” in 1991 as its second female correspondent to that point. Stahl was also a moderator of “Face the Nation” from 1983 to ’91, only the second woman to hold such a job since Martha Rountree decades before. Pictured: Stahl interviewing President-elect Donald J. Trump at his home on NOv. 11, 2016, for "60 Minutes."

13. Liz Trotta

CBS News correspondent Liz Trotta is shown, 1984.
Photo Credit: CBS

The first woman to cover the Vietnam War as a full-time correspondent, for NBC, beginning over a six-month period in 1968, and over two subsequent tours. As Joyce Hoffman wrote in her history of the women who reported on Vietnam, “Liz Trotta was probably the first woman in network news to show her skittish bosses that it could be done — again and again and again.” Trotta covered the battlefield almost exclusively. Trotta — now a Fox News commentator — was also a reporter for Newsday.

12. Marlene Sanders

Journalist Marlene Sanders arrives at the launch party
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Bryan Bedder

After joining ABC News in 1964, Sanders became the first solo female anchor of a network news program when she subbed for the regular anchor who was sidelined by illness. She was sent to report on the Vietnam War in March, 1966, becoming the first woman to report on the war for a U.S. TV network. Was placed in charge of documentaries at ABC in 1977, one of the first women vice presidents at a network news division.

11. Andrea Mitchell

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks with NBC
Photo Credit: AP/Richard Drew/

Chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, and anchor of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Mitchell is the most prominent female correspondent on network television news. She joined NBC News in 1978, and has been on the air — steadily — ever since. She interviewed New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 2000.

10. Martha Rountree

New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, right, talks
Photo Credit: AP Photo

Joined “Meet the Press” as moderator on Nov. 6, 1947, as the inaugural host and — as it would turn out — the only female host of network TV’s longest running regularly scheduled program. But Rountree was also mother of “Meet the Press,” which she created as a radio show entitled “The American Mercury Presents: Meet the Press” in June, 1945.

9. Robin Roberts

In this handout photo provided by Disney Parks,
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Handout

 Co-anchor of “Good Morning America” and most prominent African-American woman in television news, and before that a pioneer at ESPN for 15 years. Roberts battled myelodysplastic syndrome, and later breast cancer, during her historic run. 

8. Connie Chung

Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's personal secretary,
Photo Credit: AP/Jim Palmer

Only woman to have anchored news broadcasts on five networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and MSNBC, and starting in 1993, the first female anchor of a nightly news broadcast on one of the Big Three, as co-anchor of “The CBS Evening News.” In the early ’70s, Chung was also one of the most prominent reporters on TV — female or male — during CBS News’ coverage of Watergate. She is shown at right, behind Rose Mary Woods, President Richard Nixon's personal secretary, and J. Fred Buzhardt, special counsel to Nixon as they leave United States District Court in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 27, 1973.

7. Christiane Amanpour

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during CNN's Town Hall
Photo Credit: AP/CNN/David Holloway

CNN’s chief international correspondent, and longtime global affairs correspondent for ABC News. Amanpour joined CNN in 1983, three years after launch, and in time became the network’s — and the world’s — most prominent female journalist, beginning in 1990, when she covered Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Amanpour has covered dozens of wars, ranking her among the top war correspondents in broadcast history. Amanpour is shown with Hillary Rodham CLinton at CNN's Town Hall interview June 17, 2014, in New York. 

6. Jessica Savitch

NBC Newsperson Jessica Savitch is shown in October
Photo Credit: AP Photo

One of the first women — after Marlene Sanders and Cassie Mackin of ABC News — to solo anchor a network evening newscast (on NBC), also host of “Frontline.” Savitch — who was killed in a car accident in 1983 — was network TV’s first “celebrity” journalist, and became a huge star in her own right, convincing the networks that “star power” was its own unique asset. Books have been written about her life, and movies — with big stars, such as Michelle Pfeiffer — have been produced. 

5. Katie Couric

Anchor and Managing Editor of the CBS Evening
Photo Credit: CBS/John Paul Filo

First woman to solo anchor a nightly newscast on one of the Big Three — “CBS Evening News” — and currently “Yahoo Global News Anchor,” another first for an internet service. But her run at “Today” from 1991 to 2006 was memorable and historic, and — to this day — remains more closely identified with the “Today” brand than any other anchor in its history, with the exception of Matt Lauer.

4. Pauline Frederick

Pauline Frederick, NBC commentator and winner of the
Photo Credit: NBC Photo

After a long, distinguished career in print, hired in 1939 at NBC News as the first full time female news correspondent, then after the war joined ABC News — another first there, where she became TV’s first female commentator. She returned to NBC in 1953, to cover the United Nations and remained in that role until retirement, in 1975.

3. Diane Sawyer

In a special hour-long ÒPrimetime LiveÓ report, Diane
Photo Credit: ABC/Caroline Borge

Former solo anchor of “ABC World News,” Sawyer joined CBS News in 1978 after working at the Nixon White House, and promptly became network TV’s most famous — -and glamorous — star. After a run in morning news, she was named a correspondent at “60 Minutes” — the first woman in the role — and later was lured by Roone Arledge to join ABC, in the biggest network talent raid since Barbara Walters joined the network a decade earlier. Along with Peter Jennings, Sawyer became ABC’s most important news anchor.

2. Dorothy Thompson

23rd July 1941: American writer, journalist and feminist
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Topical Press Agency

The first woman of network news, and during the 1930s, one of the most influential women in the world (Time called her the second most influential, after Eleanor Roosevelt.) Thompson joined NBC News in 1936 — after she was expelled from Germany for her critical reporting on Hitler — to launch a news commentary broadcast, “On the Record,” later covering Germany’s invasion of Poland over fifteen consecutive days in 1939. Katharine Hepburn later played a character based on her in “Woman of the Year.” In this 1941 photo, Thompson chats with an ambulance driver on a bench in London.

1. Barbara Walters

ABC1(10/22/98)--20/20--In an unusual "20/20 Sunday," Diane Sawyer and
Photo Credit: ABC/VIRGINIA SHERWOOD

The most. Period. The most prominent woman in network news history, the most influential, the most famous. Walters joined “Today” in 1961 as a “Today Girl,” then permanently banished that designation in 1974 when she became the show’s first female co-host. When Walters was named co-anchor of “ABC Evening News” in 1976 — another first — she also became the highest paid person in network news. In short order, Walters became the world’s best-known interviewer — male or female — while her 1999 interview of Monica Lewinsky shattered a viewing record (74 million). She also launched “The View” in 1997, one of the most successful programs in daytime history — and now a widely copied template. Walters is shown with Bob and Michelle Smithdas, a deaf and blind couple she interviewed on "20/20 Sunday."

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