WPSPJ Reality Check with Anthony O’Reilly


Courtesy of WPSPJ

Evan Shiebler, Staff Writer

A fitness writer shared his story with students last Wednesday over zoom, encouraging them to open their minds to the limits of what journalism is and its impact on the world.  

Anthony O’Reilly engaged within a Reality Check event hosted by the William Paterson University chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists run by a journalism professor, Dr. Nicholas Hirshon.  

The Reality Check was an opportunity for students to engage with active journalists like O’Reilly. While giving them the chance to ask questions about what it is to be a journalist in the modern world, among job crisis’, a pandemic, and a change in global media.   

Hailing from Queens, New York, O’Reilly began his journey in journalism in high school when he joined his school paper. One story about why the school district took the salt out of the cafeterias was all it took for O’Reilly to see the impact that journalism can have. The story fueled his passion for informing the people.   

O’Reilly also said he was a member of the Young Democratic Club at Holy Cross Highschool. In tandem with his parents’ message of being “a go-getter” in life, his involvement with clubs helped him on his path to success.   

O’Reilly spoke on his growth as a journalist and the skills that have helped him survive recessions and mass layoffs. He then said that “journalists are critical thinkers” and that one must do all they can to help themselves grow in the modern industry.   

O’Reilly made a point of telling students that in the communications field, one must be adaptable from job to job and as a journalist.   

Choosing to focus on the students for a moment, O’Reilly gave his advice on how students should spend their time in college. Telling them that while it is good to keep a high GPA, it isn’t everything. Connections with professors and other professionals are so much more important in the world of journalism.  

O’Reilly said that he wanted a job with “personal fulfillment, and a job that would let him do good in the world by spreading information and holding governments accountable.”   

Currently, O’Reilly splits his time between his job as a communication specialist with Equable Institute focusing on bipartisan pension policy solutions and writing for fitness with a special interest in nutrition.   

O’Reilly said that he found this passion for fitness and nutrition when he worked as a senior editor at Muscle and Fitness Magazine.   

Following his own advice on how a journalist must be personable, O’Reilly shared the story of his personal struggles with his health and how fitness and nutrition have helped him.   

His love for fitness and nutrition and how it helped him have driven O’Reilly to focus his efforts on fitness journalism.   

“News has taken various different forms,” said O’Reilly when explaining to students that even though it isn’t on the ten o’clock local news channel, it doesn’t take away from the impact that his writing has on those who read it.  

A significant point of his speech was that journalism is an exchange of information to benefit the public; that is a journalist’s job.  

In the future, O’Reilly plans to write more intensively for nutrition articles and news outlets. He is already a considerable step of the way there, being a registered nutrition coach through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.   

After telling students his path in life as a journalist, Dr. Hirshon then welcomed students to engage with O’Reilly and ask him their questions about a journalist’s life, from writing to dealing with the pandemic and haters.   

The jobs in journalism can be unstable and, more importantly, competitive.

O’Reilly told students after explaining to them that “some people teach themselves coding” to make themselves more marketable in such a competitive and ever-changing industry.   

When asked how to deal with people who do not like his work, O’Reilly shared when he wrote a critical report on a politician in a republican area of Queens. The hate he faced from the community surprised him.   

“People wrote hate comments online and said really hurtful things. I was annoyed, but thankfully it never went beyond that,” O’Reilly said.  

Sharing his passion, O’Reilly related with students over being a journalist during the pandemic. “The pandemic has made me more passionate about finding stories when there seem to be none,” O’Reilly said.   

Working at many institutions and media outlets, O’Reilly encouraged students not to limit themselves to journalism’s old ways. Instead, find what makes them passionate about the world and write about it.   

Responding to a student’s question about his growth over time as a journalist, O’Reilly spoke about how he has seen his patience and writing grow and become developed. 

Overall, the event went incredibly well, thanks to O’Reilly and his passion and engagement with students.   

The William Paterson chapter of the SPJ will be hosting the next reality check on April 27, 6 p.m. with Wil Cruz, an executive editor at ABC News