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News chief Richard Wald, who helped found ABC News, has died

He worked at now-defunct New York newspapers, the Herald Tribune and World Journal Tribune, as well as the Washington Post, and oversaw such stalwarts of “new journalism” as Jimmy Breslin, Thomas Wolfe and Gail Sheehy.

Explaining why he joined NBC News in the late 1960s, Wald often said, “I didn’t quit the papers. The newspapers have left me.

He was president of NBC News from 1973 to 1977, where he installed Tom Brokaw and Jane Pauley as hosts of the “Today” show. He also let screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky follow him for two days and became the model for the network’s news chairman in the satirical film “Network.” Kicked out of NBC due to tensions with his bosses, he joined ABC News and served as a top aide to the mercurial Roone Arledge.

A sports executive who was given authority over a struggling news division, Arledge had plenty of ideas but little news experience. Wald, along with fellow executive David Burke, helped implement the good ideas, said Tom Bettag, a former executive producer of “Nightline,” a show Wald gave a name to.

“He was extremely upbeat, full of energy,” Bettag said.

With a team that included Peter Jennings, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Ted Koppel, ABC rose to the top of the broadcast network’s news divisions at the height of its power, before its influence was reduced by the 24 hour cable news and internet.

“Wald was the guy who knew the news world inside and out — not just television,” Bettag said.

Wald’s wife of 67 years, Edith, died in December. He is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.


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