Confrontational talk show host Bill O' Reilly doesn't suffer fools
gladly and unless your client has something provocative to say their
chances of being booked on The O'Reilly Factor may not be much better
than Al Sharpton's 2004 presidential bid.
"We're looking for items that are emotionally charged, visceral,
political or controversial," said Amy Sohnen, senior producer of The
"Or anything that hasn't been picked up and played to death by everyone
Khristine Bershers, media relations manager for the Heritage Foundation,
a public policy think tank, has placed several analysts on the show.
"You should be able to guarantee that your person has a definite opinion
which he or she can passionately defend - nothing irritates O'Reilly and
his staff more than a wishy-washy fence-straddler."
Pulling in an average of 1.1 million viewers a night, The O'Reilly
Factor, regularly trounces competition Larry King Live and is the top
rated show on the Fox News Network. About 55% of the show's viewers are
women, while only 45% are men - blowing apart any belief that The
O'Reilly Factor is nothing more than a raging testosterone fest.
O'Reilly is having his media heyday right now. He was featured on the
cover of TV Guide in June and his book, The O'Reilly Factor, is
currently No. 28 on The New York Times Bestseller List (it was as high
as No. 1 last year).
But what's the appeal of the rough talking O'Reilly? Whether taking
George W. Bush to task over whether Jesus would have believed in the
death penalty or asking investigators to dig into Jesse Jackson's
fundraising practices, O'Reilly paints himself as every man, asking
questions that other newscasters shy away from.
"He appeals to the average Joe," said Sohnen. "Not many people are in
the six-figure (salary) range and a lot of newscasters tend to forget
that their audience is mainly working class. O'Reilly doesn't talk down
to his audience and he asks questions that he feels his viewers really
want to know."
"O'Reilly likes a bigger picture. Don't just pitch an item," said
Valerie Walston, director of broadcasting for public policy
organization, the Cato Institute, who has placed several guests on the
"Tell the producer what your story says about the education system or
healthcare in America or government intrusion," adds Walston. "Your
issue has to allude to a bigger social problem or story."
A combustible energy also pervades the story meetings, which happen
twice a week. The show is planned a month in advance, but the producers
are well aware they may have to change guests to incorporate the hot
news of the day.
Sohnen has practical advice for those people hoping to get on the
"Keep it simple. O'Reilly is quick to decide whether a topic will work
or not and the more a subject has to be talked about, the quicker it is
to get the ax." Questions to ask when pitching the show: "Would this
appeal to your parents?" and "Why should O'Reilly's viewership care
about your client?"
Jeff Ingram, senior account executive at Ein Communications, says: "You
have to watch O'Reilly's show. One of the people I got on was Norm Sober
who wrote a book called A Corporate Form of Freedom." Ingram adds:
"Anything that can piggyback off of existing stories and anything that
challenges the establishment, O'Reilly is interested in."
As for the conservative reputation that the Fox News Network seems to
have, Sohnen says that O'Reilly is open to guests from across the
political spectrum - they just have to be able to defend their point of
"You don't have to appeal to a partisan agenda to get on the show," says
Sohnen. "Whether you're on the left or the right, Bill will give you a
fair hearing. He just expects you to be able to back up your
The O'Reilly Factor
Address: 1211 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036
Tel: (212) 301-3000 (Fox News Channel)
Fax: (212) 301-5147
Senior producer: Amy Sohnen
Assistant producer: Kristin Lazure, 212-301-3252 (e-mail:
Booker: Dan Cohen, 212-301-3041 (e-mail: Dan.Cohen@foxnews.com)