Av Westin, Newsman Behind ABC’s ‘20/20,’ Dies at 92

He left CBS in 1967, spent two years as executive director of the noncommercial Public Broadcasting Laboratory and joined ABC News in 1969 as the executive producer of its evening newscast, then anchored by Frank Reynolds. It was an era when “ABC Evening News” trailed CBS and NBC’s nightly news operations in prestige, ratings and financial resources.

“My target is ‘H and B,’” Mr. Westin told The Indianapolis News in 1969, referring to NBC’s co-anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. “I think people are getting tired of them, and if they’re shopping around, I want them to look at us before they automatically turn to Walter” Cronkite.

The broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, who was a correspondent on the evening news program, said of Mr. Westin in a phone interview, “He probably elevated the ‘ABC Evening News’ as much as anyone until Roone Arledge,” adding, “Av was a very ambitious man, who thought he should have been ABC News president.”

While at ABC News, Mr. Westin ran its “Close-Up” documentary unit, for which he won a Peabody Award in 1973. He won another Peabody the next year, for producing and directing the documentary “Sadat: Action Biography,” about the Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat.

He left ABC News in 1976 in a dispute with Bill Sheehan, the president of the division, but returned two years later at Mr. Arledge’s request “to get rid of” the incompatible, feuding “Evening News” anchor team of Ms. Walters and Harry Reasoner.

“The day I arrived back at ABC, one of the producers who was in the Reasoner camp came up to me and said, ‘You know, she owes us 5 minutes and 25 seconds,’” Mr. Westin told the Television Academy, referring to how much more Ms. Walters had been on the air than Mr. Reasoner over the past year.

After returning as the executive producer of “Evening News,” Mr. Westin collaborated with Mr. Arledge on an overhaul in 1978 that transformed the show into the faster-paced, graphics-oriented “World News Tonight,” with three anchors: Mr. Reynolds in Washington, Max Robinson in Chicago and Peter Jennings in London.

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