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By Angela Enright |

Brian O’Reilly



Dallas Editor for Fortune



You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who talks or thinks faster than Fortune magazine’s Dallas editor, Brian O’Reilly. The natural talents apparently stead him well. He’s covered a lot of ground since management at the New York-based and Time Inc.-owned business magazine asked him to set up shop here about eight months ago. He still has a lot of ground to go before he feels at home in the town that he says feeds on its own boosterism.

That’s not a criticism. It’s just an observation from a newcomer with a broad base of business and travel experience.

“I was in New York for four years, and people used to tell me about the entrepreneurial spirit and the dynamics of Dallas,” he says in a clipped voice. “It sounded like the Chamber of Commerce talking. But I came down, and there really is something in the air…to the point where I look at it sometimes skeptically. You can get wrapped up in it. I have to keep my perspective. It is a self-feeding thing. It works. I think this is a healthy economy. It is well-diversified and solid. But I look at this thing and ask, ’My word! What is going on here?’ It’s a very fertile ground for business ideas. Take somebody like Robert Dedman for instance. He gets an idea out of nowhere and creates a $350-million-a-year business.”

O’Reilly says his initial impressions of Dallas have indeed changed for the better. “I was expecting a more cowboyesque feel. Even Fort Worth doesn’t look very cowboy to me. I’ve been in a lot of different cities, and if you close your ears and just look at this town, people are every bit as sophisticated and savvy and all this sort of stuff.

“The only change in expectation that I’ve gone through is that Dallas is more sophisticated than I thought. I think people try very hard to be sophisticated. They overtry. If they would just relax, they would probably discover that they are more sophisticated than they realize. In New York you try to be understated. We’ve been millionaires for trillions of years, and we don’t have to show it off. Here, the money is a little bit newer so people are more excited about it. That is just a function of time.”

O’Reilly, 36, is from Hope-well, New Jersey, and has done everything from driving a Greyhound bus along the California coast to being named a Sloan Fellow in Economics. He spends most of his days observing Dallas, interviewing owners of new and established businesses throughout a seven-state region and generally keeps his reporter’s antennae tuned to business trends. He writes about 10 or 12 stories a year; each involves about a month of research and two weeks of writing and editing. When we talked, he was working on a telephone-industry story. He said that he had to make a trip to New York before he could finish it. While there, he was reprimanded for missing the news about Elvis Mason’s new financial venture. O’Reilly lamented that he had scheduled the Mason interview, but had to cancel it so he could cover the telephone story in New York.

O’Reilly admitted that he “feels uncomfortable commenting on the kind of job that the local media does in covering Dallas business.” He will say, again, that it’s slightly “boostery” for his taste. Fortune, on the other hand, likes to take a more analytical look at business and business trends, much to the chagrin of local public relations people.

“I worked for Fortune for two years before I understood what a Fortune story should be.” He says he is besieged with people who want him to do stories that he calls “product promotions.” Fortune, he says, tends to be more strategy-minded. “How did they do it? What opportunites do we see? What are they trying to pursue? We don’t do histories about last year. We do stories about last year and what the future holds. It is my job to get this across.”

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