Julie O'Neill: Anchor Aweigh

Speaker, author and former news anchor/reporter Julie O'Neill recently released her first book, "Bold: The Secret to My Big Wins to Help You Crash Through Your Comfort Zone."
Julie O'Neill: Anchor Aweigh

Julie O’Neill always envisioned herself following in her family’s footsteps and pursuing a music career. Her dad, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother were professional opera singers, and her grandfather was a concert pianist. The family even had a Christmas show on local television in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where O’Neill grew up.

“My identity was steeped in singing and performing, so I assumed that would be my career,” O’Neill recalls. “But then I decided that whatever musical talent I have is for fun and for the Lord.”

After studying at the University of Cincinnati’s prestigious College Conservatory of Music, she switched her major to broadcast journalism and transfered to Louisiana State University. O’Neill was hooked after an internship at a local news station in Baton Rouge.

“I loved researching a story and having to boil it down to a minute, 30 seconds,” she says. “I also loved having a new adventure every day, tight deadlines, and meeting all different kinds of people.”

O’Neill got hired as a reporter following her summer internship in 1991, and signed a contract to anchor that station’s morning show a week after graduation. Her rise to success was meteoric but not without its challenges.

In her recently released first book, “Bold: The Secret to My Big Wins to Help You Crash Through Your Comfort Zone,” O’Neill talks about how she developed boldness at each stage of her career. “I share some of the tools I used to help myself break through the fear of embarrassing myself so that I could take risks to set myself apart, and go after the stories that make a difference,” she says. “These are tools anyone can use to break through.”

O’Neill delves into key moments throughout her career where boldness made the difference in getting big wins as well as pushing forward through the failures and disappointments. She describes writing the book as cathartic because it helped her navigate her grief over losing her professional identity and the career she nurtured for three decades. According to O’Neill, she was in her 50s and “just hitting her prime” when her journalism career ended in September 2022.

“Life is a journey of peaks and valleys, and you have to learn to navigate both,” says O’Neill. “It’s the wins that keep us taking risks, but it’s the failures that lead us to our greatest successes.”

Regarding women in journalism, O’Neill notes, “We need to lift each other up and help each other out.”

Memorable Interviews

Some of O’Neill’s most memorable interviews throughout her career included Mother Teresa, Merv Griffin and Bill Clinton. She shares the comedy of errors that transpired when, in Baton Rouge, she got a tip that Clinton, the governor of Arkansas at the time and seeking the presidential nomination, would be in town.

“There I was, in heels, jogging beside him,” O’Neill recalls. “When I finally met up with him at the coffee shop, there were a bunch of press photographers there. One of them pushed into my photographer, who then pushed into me, and I flew into Clinton, who was answering my question. He spilled his coffee, and I was like Lucy from “I Love Lucy,” dabbing at him with my notepad and apologizing profusely while trying to get my photographer to get a cutaway of him looking at me as I was standing there with a serious news dog face. But I got it! I was the only local reporter who got the interview with the future president!

Next, O’Neill worked at a station in Miami, Florida. One day she got a call from WABC in New York, the number one local station in the country. They wanted to see more of her live material, so they suggested she move somewhere where she could go live every night to gain experience. She wanted New York more than anything, so she worked at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati as a nightside reporter.

She planned to stay for only a year. But fate stepped in one rainy night when she was assigned to report on a breaking homicide story.

“I accidentally locked the keys in the news station’s live van, this police lieutenant came over with a Slim Jim to help, and the rest is history,” explains O’Neill. She ended up marrying him, having kids, and delivering the news in Cincinnati for 27 years. In addition, she made incredible friends, neighbors, colleagues and contacts throughout her illustrious career.

O’Neill looks forward to her life’s next chapter, which includes more writing and public speaking.

“I always felt the most alive when I was speaking to groups and emceeing events,” says O’Neill. “I love engaging audiences.”

She hopes her book’s message will move people personally and professionally to a better, stronger place. As for O’Neill, she will continue boldly moving forward.

“There’s something pretty exciting about not having a clue what’s next,” she says. “It’s freeing to know the doors just flew wide open, so here I go!”

“Bold: The Secret to My Big Wins to Help You Crash Through Your Comfort Zone,” by Julie O’Neill, is available for purchase on Amazon. For more information, visit julieoneillspeaks.com.

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