Former Fairfield Citizen, Conn. Post reporter was an 'all-around' journalist

Photo of Ethan Fry

FAIRFIELD — Genevieve “Genny” Reilly, a former longtime reporter for the Fairfield Citizen and Connecticut Post, died unexpectedly Wednesday night, according to her family.

She was 62.

Family, former colleagues and officials Reilly covered remembered her as a tough, but fair, reporter who was proud to continue a family tradition in journalism that spanned four generations.

Her father, the late John Reilly, was a former editor of the Norwalk Hour. Her grandfather was a managing editor of the Bridgeport Post, and her great-grandfather was managing editor of the Meriden Journal.

“It’s always what she wanted to do,” Reilly’s sister Peggy Huber said Thursday. “I think she was happiest when she was reporting, even though it drove her crazy sometimes. It really was her passion.”

Reilly grew up in Norwalk, and had five brothers and three sisters, Huber said, as well as a son, Will.

She began her journalism career in the 1980s at the Fairfield Citizen before joining the Connecticut Post, where she worked in the Fairfield bureau and also covered other towns. She left the company in 2018.

Officials she covered over the years remembered her fondly and as someone who was embedded in the community she covered.

“I’m heartbroken,” former Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said. “I’m in tears here because it’s just so sad to me.”

MacNamara said Reilly had made him a better police chief.

“She did that because she not only held me and the department accountable for the job we did by reporting that outward, but she was also a comforting person in what is a very stressful job,” he said.

State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey said she was “absolutely devastated” at the news of Reilly’s passing.

“I’m so upset,” McCarthy Vahey said. “I had tremendous respect for her as a journalist. She was always fair. She reported the news. Whether you were an independent, a Democrat or a Republican, she did not suffer fools and made sure the community knew what was going on.”

Reilly’s career spanned a transitional period in journalism, from a time when town beat reporters could cover nearly every meeting to a digital era of fewer resources.

“We had a lot more engaged press back then,” First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick recalled of Reilly’s blanket coverage of local meetings earlier in her career. “I definitely respected her as a journalist.”

“We spent a lot of time in small rooms together,” McCarthy Vahey said.

Reilly managed the changing eras better than many, according to John Schwing, a former Connecticut Post metro editor who also worked with Reilly at the Citizen.

He said Reilly could always be relied on to get a story, even if it meant staying at a budget meeting past 2 a.m. and then filing overnight so the news could go online first thing in the morning.

“She was a real pro,” Schwing said, noting that Reilly also developed photography skills later in her career as news staffs shrank.

“She really grew into that,” he said. “She really liked and did very well with that responsibility. She was really an all-around journalist. Even though she had been involved in the business for many years, she evolved with it.”

Photography grew into a passion for Reilly, Huber said. She was also an avid reader and sports fan, in particular of UConn women’s and men’s basketball, the Boston Red Sox, and the New England Patriots.

Reilly also loved music, accompanying Huber to Lake Street Dive shows whenever the band toured locally, as well as spending time near the ocean, at Sasco Beach in Fairfield and elsewhere.

“We just got to celebrate one of my brother’s birthdays with him in Martha’s Vineyard, which was a really special place for us. We liked to go there,” Huber said. “She loved the beach. She loved the water.”

Reilly tweeted a picturesque seascape photo of a promontory on the island jutting into the Atlantic Ocean Saturday.

“I don’t want to leave,” she wrote as a caption.

Tom Flynn, a Fairfield selectman and former Board of Finance chairman, said Reilly would always tease him about keeping meetings efficient. But he also knew her coverage would be fair.

“When she wrote an article, at least as it pertains to me, her quotes were always accurate and she took great care to make sure I was represented appropriately whether I was wrong or right,” he said. “That was the best you could hope for when working with a reporter.”

Flynn added he had “nothing but fond memories of Genny and I’m going to miss her.”

Cindy Simoneau, a former Connecticut Post Fairfield bureau chief and assistant managing editor who is now the chair of the journalism department at Southern Connecticut State University, said Reilly “not only covered Fairfield but became really entrenched in Fairfield.”

“We could always rely on Genny to go out and get to the heart of the story,” she said.

Former Connecticut Post Managing Editor Mike Daly agreed.

“There was no news in the newsroom,” Daly said. “I hated to see people at their desks — ‘Go out and do something.’ And Genny was always out. She was in Fairfield.”

Daly said nothing happened in Fairfield that Reilly didn’t know about.

“She was old school, pound the pavement,” he said. “She was just a person who was so present in the town that people would call her and tell her what was going on, so I had the utmost confidence that we’d never be blindsided in Fairfield. She was just a consummate sort of beat reporter and I had a lot of faith in her.”