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Liz Dribben, pioneering newswoman on Buffalo, network TV programs ; Aug. 20, 1937 -- Jan. 20, 2011

Liz Dribben, a pioneering television journalist, first in her hometown of Buffalo and then in New York City, died Thursday in a Manhattan nursing home after a long illness. She was 73.

From 1964 to 1968, Ms. Dribben was co-host of WKBW-TV's morning show "Dialing for Dollars." She also the first woman in Buffalo to anchor a newscast, hosting the station's daily morning program and "In Conversation," a series of landmark one-on-one television interviews with leading figures of the day, from comic Phyllis Diller to poet Allen Ginsberg.

Dismissed after she asked for pay equity with her male colleagues, she decided to follow her dream of working for CBS News.

"It wasn't a question of women's rights," said her cousin, Elizabeth Dribben Alexander, "it was a question of fairness."

Moving to New York City in 1969, she worked as a freelancer for documentary units of the Associated Press and ABC News until 1972, then had an opportunity to join CBS News' radio division.

Told that her voice was too deep for her to be on the air, she found a position as CBS News producer and worked closely for 21 years with the network's stars -- Mike Wallace, Dan Rather, Charles Osgood, Charles Kuralt, Dallas Townsend, Douglas Edwards, Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer.

She was a senior producer and writer for CBS Radio News on many of the leading stories of those two decades, from Watergate to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and was a contributing producer for the "CBS Evening News" and "CBS News Sunday Morning."

During the American evacuation of Vietnam in 1975, the tireless worker brought several sets of clothes to the studio so she did not have go home to change. Her newswriting won numerous awards. She also created CBS' radio satellite unit.

She was the producer, interviewer and ghostwriter of the daily radio program "Mike Wallace at Large" and did the same for "Dan Rather Reporting" and "Newsbreak With Charles Osgood."

Osgood said of her, "Liz could have been a great detective or psychiatrist. When she listens, people talk."

Wallace noted, "Invariably, the listener comes away from a Liz Dribben interview enlightened, entertained and sometimes even moved."

After leaving CBS in 1993, Ms. Dribben produced programs for the Concert Music Network and contributed cultural commentary to CNN Radio, ABC News, XM Satellite Radio and WNYC-FM. She hosted a talk show on what was then WEVD in New York City and taught radio reporting in the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She also contributed articles to The Buffalo News.

A 1954 graduate of Lafayette High School, Elizabeth L. Dribben was the youngest in her class, the class humorist and a tireless participant in plays, variety shows and other activities.

In 1958, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Buffalo, where she majored in drama and speech while pursuing so many extracurricular interests that her mother, an attorney, pointedly reminded her, "You know you're supposed to study at school."

After graduation, she worked for UB's university relations office and at radio station WBFO-FM. She started at WKBW-TV in 1959 as a publicist and production assistant.

The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers inducted her into its Hall of Fame in 2001. She was inducted into the Lafayette High School Hall of Fame in 2008.

A memorial service will be scheduled.

-- Dale Anderson