Lloyd Dobyns, co-host of an innovative TV news broadcast, dies at 85

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Award-winning NBC News reporter Lloyd Dobyns, presenter of the innovative television news broadcast “NBC News Overnight” in the early 1980s, died Sunday in Mebane, NC, northwest of Raleigh. He was 85 years old.

His son, Kenneth, said the cause was a series of stroke complications.

Mr. Dobyns has worked for NBC News in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and has won more than two dozen awards for reporting, writing and presenting. She is probably best known for working with Linda Ellerbee on “NBC News Overnight,” the first of several late-night news programs launched by broadcast networks to compete with 24-hour news coverage introduced by CNN in 1980.

Lloyd Allen Dobyns Jr. was born on March 12, 1936, in Newport News, Va. After serving in the military, he began his broadcast career in 1957 as a reporter for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va. He is a newscaster for NBC affiliate WAVY-TV in Tidewater, Virginia. He later became the station’s news director.

He moved to New York in 1969, where he worked first as executive editor for news at WNEW-TV and then as part of the NBC News team. He was a foreign correspondent before returning to New York to broadcast the TV news magazine “Weekend,” for which he won a Peabody Award in 1975.

As both writer and reporter, Mr. Dobyns cynically and humorously set the style for “The Weekend” and was later completed by the equally hilarious and irreverent Mrs Ellerbee. The two reunited in July 1982 for “NBC News Overnight,” which airs from 1:30am-2:30pm on weekdays and 2pm on Saturdays.

John J. O’Connor, who reviewed “NBC News Overnight” for The New York Times in 1982, described it as “one of the classiest new acts in television news” and said, “Both Mr. Dobyns and Miss Ellerbee take some pride in their writing. His talents and, above all, their collaboration in this field give the program its attractive personality.”

However, the show’s ratings were low and NBC canceled the show in November 1983. “This was our prime news hour and remains the model for an hourly news product,” said Reuven Frank, head of NBC News at the time. “But when the cost is far greater than the revenue, simply being the best is not enough.” (Mr. Dobyns had left at the time to report to the short-lived NBC news magazine “Monitor” due to low ratings.)

In a statement, Ms. Ellerbee described Mr. Dobyns as “a friend, teacher, troublemaker and a world-class journalist”.

Mr. Dobyns retired from NBC in 1986 and later taught journalism at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala.

In addition to his son Kenneth, he is survived by his wife Patti; two daughters, Denise and Alison; and eight grandchildren. Another son, Brian, and a brother, Norman, died before him.

The New York Times contributed to the reporting.

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