Over the past four decades, there has been no individual more identifiable or impactful in the American news media than Bill O’Reilly. A dynamo with an authentic style of telling the stories that matter most to America, his perspective is sought after by millions of viewers and listeners, who found their opinions on the day’s events with O’Reilly’s thoughts in mind.
The American news media landscape is always changing, as is the way that Americans absorb and digest the news. While much has changed, O’Reilly has remained a constant on the television, radio airwaves, bookshelves, and now podcast and digital news arena.
Some would argue that few people have had more of a foundational and transformative impact on the American political space than O’Reilly. For 20 years, at 8 p.m. ET, O’Reilly reported and opined on the events of the day. With a brand that is now synonymous with his name, “No Spin,” O’Reilly has been a catalyst for the conservative movement as it exists today while remaining distinctly independent, unafraid to disagree, dispute and argue with any titan of American politics.
While many have tried, there have been few people who have been able to connect with Americans so well, for so long, as O’Reilly.
A Long Island native, O’Reilly has had a knack for connecting with his audience since the early days of his career. Following his graduation from college, he began a career in education, as a teacher. Shortly thereafter, he determined that journalism was a more appropriate career path, and so began a storied life in the news.
“After graduating from Marist College, I took a job teaching history at Pace High School in Opa Locka, Florida, a very tough hamlet north of Miami. In the classroom, I had to keep distracted students engaged, so I developed a personal style of communication. Down to earth, not boring. I brought that to my TV news reporting after receiving a master’s in broadcast journalism from Boston University,” O’Reilly recalls.
O’Reilly, like many in the news business, then began his time on the air reporting the news in various media markets across the country at local affiliate stations. He spent time in Dallas, Denver and Scranton, Pennsylvania, among other cities in the continental northeast. In the early 1980s, he would report as a correspondent for CBS Network News, until joining ABC’s top-rated World News Tonight later that decade.
In the news, O’Reilly had always found success. In 1989, he joined the syndicated program Inside Edition, where within weeks he became the show’s co-anchor, and continued with a six-year tenure at the anchor’s desk.
“I climbed the TV news ladder the hard way. There are no shortcuts if you’re from Levittown. I lived in every time zone: Dallas, Denver, Portland, Oregon. After five years on the road, WCBS, Channel 2 hired me to report for Jim Jensen and Roland Smith. That was my big break,” O’Reilly says.
In 1996, Fox News Channel launched. O’Reilly was welcomed into the network to host his own primetime news program. It would be here where he would achieve his most notable accomplishments, broadcasting from a New York studio beginning the new network’s first day. O’Reilly’s show, The O’Reilly Factor, would quickly become the most-viewed cable news broadcast in America.
O’Reilly’s program would sit atop the cable news ratings for the next 16 years, where he became a pillar of the network and cable news industry alike.
“They brought me on because I had a working-class, down-to-earth style. It worked, thank God. And I mean that literally. I actually designed The Factor while I was studying for a master’s degree in public administration at Harvard,” O’Reilly says.
Over his career, O’Reilly has interviewed the world’s most powerful individuals. He nabbed exclusive interviews with those who affected Americans’ lives the most, including four presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“The most impactful thing I did on TV was not a single interview or report. It was The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium, an internet event with Jon Stewart. Seen worldwide, it proved two high-profile guys with opposing points of view could get along, make their points and have some laughs doing so,” says O’Reilly.
Now the host of “No Spin News” and the Bill O’Reilly podcast, his thoughts still reach millions of listeners each and every day — sometimes, even, broadcasted from his seaside home in Montauk. News has changed, though, O’Reilly says.
“TV news is now mostly controlled by major corporations that want to make as much money as possible. So they program for ideology, not information. The result has been a disaster for America. Independent news analysis has largely disappeared,” he says.
While most of his time has been dedicated to news, O’Reilly is, perhaps, just as successful — if not more — as an author. He is the author of the “Killing” series of books, which have become staples in nonfiction. Telling the stories of some of the world’s most notable history-makers — Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan, Crazy Horse and even Jesus — O’Reilly’s narrative style of award-winning authorship has received acclaim from readers and critics alike.
His new book, Killing the Killers: The Secret War Against Terrorists, reveals the dramatic story of America’s approach toward terrorism domestically and abroad.
“My new book Killing the Killers is the best reporting I have done in my career. It will describe exactly how the United States of America is fighting against incredible evil. Readers will be amazed,” he says of the work.
O’Reilly’s series has now sold over 19 million books in print — quite a feat. He has published 17 No. 1 bestsellers.
While O’Reilly has reached the mountaintops of American media, he has never lost touch with his roots on Long Island. A Chaminade graduate, O’Reilly still spends most of his time on Long Island, either in Manhasset or Montauk.
“Long Island is my base. I formulated my work ethic and philosophy of life (No BS) here. I deeply respect my upbringing and roots,” O’Reilly says.
O’Reilly enjoys life at his seaside abode for many of the same reasons we all love the East End.
“Montauk is the best place on earth from June to the end of October. I’m not a party guy so it’s not about socializing. It’s about incredible natural beauty and authentic people in this very grounded place,” he says.
O’Reilly’s new book, Killing the Killers: The Secret War Against Terrorists, is available wherever books are sold, as well as at billoreilly.com.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.