The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon


Michael Jack

Television manager Michael Jack was born on June 6, 1951 in Berlin, Germany to Johanna Magrete Kresse and Huston Jack, Jr., a military veteran. He moved to Massachusetts at age two, however, he relocated frequently with his father to several military bases in the United States and Germany. Jack attended John F. Kennedy High School in Willingboro, New Jersey and Heidelberg High School in Heidelberg, Germany. After graduation, Jack enrolled in Pennsylvania’s Haverford College where he earned his B.A. degree in political science.

After graduating from college, Jack worked for WABC-TV in New York, a subsidiary of Capital Cities ABC-TV, where he would serve for nineteen years. Jack moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1980, serving as an account executive for ABC sales spots in the city until 1981, when he became a national sales manager at KGO-TV in San Francisco, California. He was promoted to local sales manager at KGO and remained at the station until 1986.

In 1986, Jack moved to Los Angeles becoming Capital Cities’ National Sales Office Sales Manager, where he would work for a decade. In 1996, Jack joined NBC, working for Los Angeles’ KNBC as Vice President of Sales. In his role, Jack oversaw the entire department on both local and national levels. Three years later, Jack became president and general manager of Columbus, Ohio’s NBC affiliate, WCMH-TV station, succeeding executive Bill Katsafanas in managing the entire station. During Jack’s tenure, WCMH led the market in early morning news, late news and prime time markets.

An industry veteran, Jack became president and general manager of WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., jumping from the thirty-fourth largest television market in the nation to the eighth-largest. The same year, Jack was named NBC’s Vice President of Diversity by General Electric Company’s chairman and chief executive officer, Bob Wright. He became the President and General Manger of NBC New York in 2010. Jack serves on a variety of boards, including the Greater Washington Urban League, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

Michael Jack resides in New York with his wife, Mary, and daughter, Truce.

Michael Jack was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 28, 2007.

Accession Number




Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category

Haverford College

Heidelberg American High School

Bryn Mawr College

John F. Kennedy High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica, Mexico

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York



Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Short Description

Television station general manager Michael Jack (1951 - ) was the president and general manager of NBC New York.








Celanese Fiber Company



Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michael Jack's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michael Jack lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michael Jack describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michael Jack talks about his mother's upbringing in Germany

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michael Jack describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michael Jack describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michael Jack describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michael Jack describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michael Jack describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michael Jack recalls moving frequently between the United States and Germany

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michael Jack recalls his early experiences of travel

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michael Jack describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michael Jack talks about his brother

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michael Jack recalls the radio and television programs of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michael Jack talks about his education in New Jersey and Germany

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michael Jack describes his early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michael Jack talks about his family's perception of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michael Jack remembers the assassinations of Malcolm X and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Michael Jack describes the demographics of Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michael Jack describes his experiences at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michael Jack remembers the African American community at Haverford College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michael Jack recalls studying at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michael Jack describes his early work in retail marketing

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michael Jack recalls starting in the sales training program at WABC-TV in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michael Jack talks about the television advertising industry

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michael Jack talks about the television programming of the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michael Jack recalls the lack of diversity at New York City's WABC-TV

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michael Jack describes his experiences of racial discrimination at WABC-TV

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michael Jack describes his experiences of discrimination in the television advertising sales industry

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michael Jack talks about his career in the sales division of ABC

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michael Jack describes his philosophy of salesmanship

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michael Jack talks about selling airtime to niche advertisers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michael Jack describes the importance of experience in the media industry

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michael Jack remembers his decision to work for NBC

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michael Jack talks about his marriage and family

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michael Jack describes his role at WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michael Jack describes the programming on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michael Jack reflects upon the representation of African Americans in the television industry

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michael Jack talks about the lack of diversity on television

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michael Jack reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michael Jack describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michael Jack describes his transition to WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michael Jack talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michael Jack describes his organizational involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michael Jack reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Michael Jack reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Michael Jack talks about his parents' response to his success

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Michael Jack describes how he would like to be remembered







Michael Jack describes his experiences of discrimination in the television advertising sales industry
Michael Jack describes the programming on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.
So I was telling you a couple of self-inflicted wounds (laughter), 'cause you were asking about how I felt people at ABC treated me and I really was talking just in general about some experience in Corporate America, but back to that period of time, I was, 'cause I was making very little money, was also selling suits at night at a store called Barneys [Barneys New York], so I, I, after saving Barneys discount, I bought a silk tan jacket. I was sharp and proud. It was the first time, other than a blue blazer that I bought at Bloomingdale's that I actually bought something and I rode down the elevator with the president of the division at that time. And I had on some dress sandals. I don't know if you recall the type that where, you had kind of slits in 'em but I was looking sharp.$$Huaraches they're called, I think, or something like that.$$Not huaraches, but a little more dressy than that and I was, I thought I was looking bad, so, up in the elevator with him. Riding down the elevator, he says, looks over at me and says something about the jacket. And I said, "You like it? Well come on down to Barney's, I'll hook you up. I'll give you a little discount," et cetera. The next day, the next day, there was a memo that came out that all account managers, salespeople who worked for ABC will wear suits or at the--in casual moments, blue blazers, so, so should I have been smarter? Probably. Had I been there longer, maybe the outcome would have been different. But it clearly was, we were on different pages. Had I worked at the time for a different company maybe the outlook would have been different.$$You were actually thinking that he wanted one of 'em.$$Oh, absolutely. I, and I was gonna hook him up. And he was looking at me as, who is this crazy fool riding down the elevator, thinking he's looking sharp, et cetera, et cetera. There haven't been many situations like this, but I remember distinctly one that I know, as I was doing it, it was not the smartest thing to do, but I wonder had the same conversation happened between two white males, if the outcome had been the same, so. Not a bad outcome 'cause I didn't get fired, but we were at a dinner, I can't remember if it was a client dinner or one of just ABC personnel at the time, and one of the guys who happens to have the job that I now have, was sitting at the table with me, along with, I think it was the president of the division, another guy at the time. This is a number of years later, and the conversation came up about country clubs, and we got into this debate about why he thought it appropriate that you could exclude African Americans from country clubs. And I, I just, his rationale was, well because it's private. And I remember distinctly saying, and it stopped the conversation. "So, let me understand this, so it's okay to discriminate in public--in private, but not in public? Is that what you're saying?" So, all in all this world is comprised of people who, despite seeing color as the first thing that walks in the door, is how we deal with each other. Some people never get past that initial reaction and some people do, so, to generalize, I've been successful. Could I have been more successful earlier if I had been evaluated only for the things that hopefully I am evaluating individuals for, competency and performance and those kinds of things, maybe, probably, but this is America.$We were talking off camera about the nature of what you're doing, you were saying that in terms of my concern about public affairs programming, that only 7 percent of the programming nowadays is on the air.$$Is over the air (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Is over the air. That rest is cable, right?$$That people receive via the antenna, in this area, and there are some areas that are even less, the Bay Area [San Francisco Bay Area, California] for instance. Everybody's wired there.$$Okay, so then the presumption is that people would get, would have access to, well cable access channels who carry public affairs shows and then any other niche you kind of--programing would be carried on some other cable channel. Is that pretty much it?$$I mean, I think that's somewhat of a generalization but that's relatively fair. People, people unfortunately don't watch a lot of that programming either (laughter). We do some shows here, one called 'A Reporter's Notebook' [sic. 'Reporter's Notebook'] and another called 'Viewpoint' about a single topic with folks within the community talking about issues that are important here the Washington [D.C.] area, so we do give a voice to it. And the good news is we've locked it in between Sunday morning programming and what's happening in the world is people are waking up earlier and those now become very highly rated areas, but beyond that, you know, I think the domain of public affairs programming is no different than the domain of any other programming you know. People, there are so many different things that people are doing, so many distractions, so many multitask these days that finding audiences for programming is difficult in the broadcast business, but a lot of it's going online. We talk all the time. Our competition is not ABC and CBS and FOX, its Google [Google Inc.] and Yahoo and that's where the world is today. I spent a lot of time talking about how to grow our business on all the multiplatforms that exist. We're content providers but we've got to have the content where people want to watch it and we're, watch and use it. It's a different world than it was thirty years ago.$$We were discussing too that NBC 4 [WRC-TV, Washington, D.C.] here is not a superstation like WGN [WGN-TV, Chicago, Illinois] or WOR [WOR-TV; WWOR-TV, Secaucus, New Jersey] used to be or TBS [Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.], but what you do here, you do, you shoot programs for national distribution here like 'George Michael Sports Machine' ['The George Michael Sports Machine'] used to. Is that still being produced here?$$That was cancelled in March of this year.$$Okay.$$We took it off the air. It had been on for twenty-five years, but we do do here, of course, 'Matthews Show' ['The Chris Matthews Show'], 'Meet the Press,' a show called 'It's Academic' that has a regional place. It's a high school--kind of like 'Jeopardy' for high school competitions. We do--$$'McLaughlin' ['The McLaughlin Group'] is here.$$'McLaughlin' is done out of here, done out of our studios, yeah, downstairs.$$Okay, all right, so, yeah this was like, you know, once we drove up here I mean, I, I been to a few stations, but I've never seen as many antennas, and (laughter)--$$Yeah, right, right. We also have a few MSNBC shows and CNBC down here. It's also the network news bureau, so Tim Russert is the managing editor of NBC News in Washington, so we share the same building.