(BA, Economics, '74)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite classes were economics courses given by my advisor, Herman Berliner. I wasn’t remotely interested in economics until I took a course that he team-taught in my freshman year as part of a liberal arts and sciences bundle. He and Lynn Turgeon made the subject so interesting that I ended up becoming a major.
My fondest memories of Hofstra are working half the night putting the Chronicle to bed every week, and when I was assistant concert committee chairman, we hosted the first installment of ABC’s Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in the playhouse. We had the Allman Brothers, Curtis Mayfield, Alice Cooper, Poco and a bunch of other acts playing for 12 hours for the taping, and we had to fill the playhouse with students without telling anybody what they would be coming to see. Wild!
- What was your first job after graduating Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job after graduation was editor at the Oyster Bay Guardian. I was working 70 hours a week doing everything from writing to layout to overseeing production until the wee hours of the morning. But it was great experience. I learned a lot about journalism. But most importantly I learned how to deal effectively with people: the staff and the public. I learned that you need to treat employees like they are volunteers to get their best work and create a harmonious workplace.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I started out doing general journalism, doing everything from feature stories to breaking news to municipal coverage. Eventually I gravitated into doing history and maritime stories, which were always a big interest of mine back to childhood. I backed into journalism. I started out writing music articles for the student newspaper at Locust Valley High School and then did the same initially at the Chronicle. But in my sophomore year I decided to do a feature story about how Robert Moses’ proposed Bayville-Rye Bridge would destroy the environment of Long Island’s North Shore. The editors at the Oyster Bay Guardian saw it and did a story about me, which led to freelancing for the paper and then a full-time job when I graduated. From there I moved to the Courier-News in New Jersey and then Newsday.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
When you decide what you want to do with your life, work your butt off to get there. The best jobs are not easy to get and require incredible persistence and ability to handle rejection along the way.
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- What sparked your interest in journalism?
As a member of the Woodstock Generation (I attended the 1969 festival as a high school junior), I wanted to save the world. I thought about going to law school but as I looked into it I realized there was a lot of deal-making involved. I thought journalism would be a good way to highlight problems and help solve them. And I was right – even if journalists these days seem to have the same credibility issues as lawyers.
- Which published piece of work that you have written are you most proud of?
My first book without a co-author: Sagamore Hill: Theodore Roosevelt’s Summer White House.
- Who was the person who most influenced you in your career, and how?
My communications professor Arlene Wolff, a former Associated Press reporter who told it like it was and was a huge inspiration in how to be a journalist. Most importantly, she told me to stop focusing entirely on campus activities like the Chronicle and get out in the real world to do journalism before I graduated to jump-start my career. That led to me spending weekends and summers working on stories for the Oyster Bay Guardian, which led to my first full-time job and ultimately Newsday. I passed on her advice when I was on the committee that created Hofstra’s School of Communication and lobbied successfully to make internships mandatory.
Bill Bleyer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Fire Island Lighthouse: Long Island’s Welcoming Beacon (The History Press 2017) and Sagamore Hill: Theodore Roosevelt's Summer White House (The History Press 2016), and co-author of Long Island and the Civil War (The History Press 2015). He was the copy editor for Making a Difference by Jerry Figgiani with Chris R. Vaccaro in 2016, and he served as a volunteer editor for the Robert W. Greene Summer High School Journalism Institute at Stony Brook University in 2016.
He was an award-winning staff writer for Newsday, the Long Island daily newspaper, for 33 years before retiring in 2014 to write books and freelance for magazines and Newsday. The Long Island native contributed a chapter to the anthology Harbor Voices – New York Harbor Tugs, Ferries, People, Places, & More, published in 2008. And he was a contributor and editor of Bayville, a history of his Long Island community (Arcadia 2009).
As a Newsday staff writer, Bleyer specialized in history, parks and maritime issues. In 1999-2000, he was one of four full-time Newsday staff writers for “Long Island: Our Story,” a yearlong daily history of Long Island that resulted in four books and filled thousands of pages in the newspaper. Subsequently he was the paper’s primary history writer. He previously wrote the Sunday ‘‘On the Water’’ column for five years.
Bleyer was part of the Newsday team that won a Pulitzer Prize for spot news coverage of the crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1997. He was also on the team that won the Newspaper Guild of New York’s 1984 Page One Award for a series about Social Security disability.
Prior to joining Newsday, Bleyer worked for six years at The Courier-News in Bridgewater, NJ, as a reporter and later regional editor. He began his career as editor of the Oyster Bay Guardian for a year.
His work has been published in Civil War News, Naval History, Sea History, Nassau County Historical Society Journal, Underwater USA, Lighthouse Digest, Science Digest, The American Economist, Higher Education Weekly, The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times, The Toronto Star, and numerous other magazines and newspapers. His photos have appeared in America’s Civil War, Classic Toy Trains, and other magazines.
Bleyer graduated from Hofstra University Phi Beta Kappa with highest honors in economics with a communications minor in 1974. He earned an MA in urban studies at Queens College of the City University of New York.
He taught an environmental economics course as an adjunct instructor in his senior year at Hofstra in a pilot peer teaching program and then was an adjunct professor of communications at Hofstra in 1997 and 1998. He was founding president of Hofstra’s Journalism Alumni Association, president of the Chronicle Alumni Association, and a member of the board of the School of Communication Alumni Association. In 2015 Bleyer received Hofstra’s George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award.
From 1986 to 1989 he was president of the Press Club of Long Island (PCLI), the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). He has been on the Press Club board for 36 years — the longest serving member in club history — and is currently treasurer. In 1990 and again in 1992, he was elected to the society’s national board of directors, and he chaired the national membership and resolutions committees. Since 1994 he has been the treasurer for SPJ’s Northeast Region One, managing a regional fund that he created in 1990. In 2012 he received a top national SPJ award, the Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Award for a large chapter for service to the society or a chapter. He was inducted by PCLI into the Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame in June 2015.