The journalist-turned-PR man who went on to serve two terms as president of the TV Academy died Wednesday in Oceanside, Calif. Hank Rieger was 95. In 1977, he became the first elected president of ATAS following the split between the East and West Coast factions of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He is one of only 11 recipients of the Academy’s Syd Cassyd Award, presented in recognition of long and distinguished service. “Hank Rieger worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of the Television Academy,” ATAS Chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum said in a statement. “He believed in the Academy’s ability to have a positive impact on the entire entertainment industry, and we are deeply grateful for all he contributed.” The Kansas City, MO, native served in World War II before beginning his career as a journalist with United Press International, playing a key role in breaking the news of Marilyn Monroe’s death. In 1965, he joined NBC’s public relations department, where he worked with many of the biggest stars and execs in television — from Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Johnny Carson and Milton Berle to Bob Kintner, Grant Tinker, Herb Schlosser and Brandon Tartikoff. He traveled with Hope as the comic entertained U.S. troops overseas and led the publicity team during The Tonight Show‘s move from New York to Los Angeles in 1972. When NBC News writers and reporters went on strike, Rieger filled in for two weeks as an on-air correspondent and host of a weekend political talk show. Rieger’s work at NBC led to his association with the TV Academy. He founded Emmy magazine and helped grow the Emmy Awards into an elite event, handling all press and publicity for the annual event. In the late 1970s, Rieger launched a PR business that handled clients including ESPN, working with the sports network from its very beginnings. He also taught journalism and public relations at USC for more than two decades. Watch a clip of Rieger discussing Emmy magazine during an interview with the Archive of American Television:
R.I.P. Former TV Academy President Hank Rieger
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