Jack Reilly, former Executive Producer of ABC Television’s Good Morning America, died recently at the age of 84. Reilly assumed his position as Executive Producer of GMA in 1986, when that program was running a distant second in the audience ratings to NBC’s Today Show, and began restructuring GMA to enhance its coverage and elucidation of major news stories. To this end, he appointed “editors” in science, medicine, law, consumer affairs, media products, and other fields, and took the GMA team, led by Charles Gibson, Joan Lunden, and meteorologist Spencer Christian to locales where news was being made, from Scotland’s autonomy drive to Hong kong’s takeover by China. In 1988, Reilly became persuaded that America’s geographic illiteracy constituted a threat to the nation’s welfare and appointed a geography editor to the GMA staff. over the next seven years, geographic issues formed the topics of more than 200 GMA segments. The maps and charts supporting these segments attracted commentary from other networks as well as print media including TV Guide and People Magazine, and elicited letters from several thousand viewers including high-school and college students. In 1990, the AAG presented Reilly with a special award during its Annual Meeting in Toronto, in recognition of his advocacy of geography. Under Reilly’s leadership, Good Morning America became an Emmy Award winning program in 1993. Ownership and management changes at Capital Cities Broadcasting led to Reilly’s departure in 1994. He joined NBC as a highly esteemed producer and consultant at CNBC. When the new management decided on a different format at GMA, most of the staff, including the medical, legal, consumer affairs, and geography editors (as well as all three hosts) left the show. After the geography editor’s contract ended in 1996, Reilly persuaded NBC management to create the position of geography analyst, initially at MSNBC and in an advisory role at NBC News, which sustained his geography network-television initiative for another two years. Through his vision and matchless corporate diplomacy, Reilly brought geography to the general public’s attention in an unprecedented, and subsequently unmatched, way.
Jack Reilly (Necrology). 2009. AAG Newsletter 44(8):21.