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Tim O'Brien

Host & Producer of Shaping Opinion
Tim is the producer and host of Shaping Opinion. He's the founder of O'Brien Communications, a corporate communications consulting firm.


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Recent episodes featuring Tim O'Brien
The Fortune 500 – Episode 90
Shaping Opinion
Fortune Magazine CEO Alan Murray joins Tim to tell the story behind the Fortune 500, its history, its significance today, and what it has said over the years about America’s and the world’s business evolution. https://traffic.libsyn.com/shapingopinion/Fortune_500_auphonic.mp3 Fortune Magazine was founded in 1929 by Henry Robinson Luce. If that date doesn’t mean anything to you at first glance, keep in mind the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression happened on October 24, 1929. This was seven years after he had cofounded Time magazine with two Yale classmates. When Henry founded Fortune magazine, he said it should be for “wealthy and influential people,” and it should be “surpassingly beautiful” so that when readers turn the pages, they will pay more, and they did. In its first year, subscribers paid $10 per year for the magazine, an unheard of price at that time. In the process, Fortune Magazine featured the work of some of the country’s greatest thinkers and writers, from Ernest Hemingway and Archibald MacLeish to John Kenneth Galbraith. The first Fortune 500 list was published in 1955. Edgar P. Smith was an assistant managing editor at the magazine. He’s the one who came up with the idea for the now iconic list. In that fist year, the Fortune 500 rankings listed only companies that were in the manufacturing, mining and energy sectors. This made the list exclusive to several already well-known companies. General Motors was the top company on the list. Its annual revenues then were $9.8 billion. The Fortune 500  Yearly list of 500 of the largest U.S. Companies ranked by total revenues for the respective fiscal year. This list is compiled using the most recent figures for revenue and includes both private and public companies. Private companies must have publicly available revenue data. It excludes private companies that do not file financial statements with government agencies, foreign corporations, U.S. companies that have been consolidated by other companies, and companies that do not report full financial statements for at least three quarters of the current fiscal year. The History of the Fortune 500 52 of the original Fortune 500 are still on the list. These include: 3M, DowDupont, Merck, Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lily, Motorola, ExxonMobil, General Dynamics, General Electric, General Mills, General Motors, Goodyear, Hershey, IBM, Kellogg, Kraft-Heinz, Lockheed Martin, Cummins, Colgate-Palmolive, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Chevron, Caterpillar, Campbell Soup, Boeing, Whirlpool,, Rockwell Automation, Procter & Gamble, and PPG Industries. Over the years, more than 1,800 American companies have been featured on the Fortune 500.  Changes have occurred – mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, changes in society, recession have all contributed to the changing list. The Fortune 500 is more than a ranking, it is a reflection of the performance and evolution of America’s private sector. The biggest change to the list happened in 1994. That was when it added service companies for the first time. That year, service companies made up 291 of the 500 entries. What the Fortune 500 Says About Society Long Gone - 1955 – American Motors, Brown Shoe, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics, National Sugar Refining. Still Here – Every year since 1955 – Boeing, IBM, Procter and Gamble, Whirlpool. In 2019 but not 1955 – Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Home Depot, Microsoft, Google, Netflix, Target. This year’s top ten: Walmart Exxon Mobile Apple Berkshire Hathaway Amazon United Health Group McKesson CVS Health AT&T Amerisource Bergen Links The Fortune 500 Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, by Louis Gerstner, Amazon Fact Sheet: What is the Fortune 500 List? , Investopedia About this Episode's Guest Alan Murray Alan Murray is President and CEO of Fortune. During his tenure as Editor-in-Chief,
The Ludlow Massacre & The Birth of PR – Episode 89
Shaping Opinion
Veteran public relations consultant, author and professor Fraser Seitel joins Tim to talk about a horrendous moment in American business history and how that spurred the need for the public relations profession and PR practitioners to serve as the “conscience of the organization.” This story centers on John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the striking workers of the Ludlow Camp in 1914, and one of the fathers of the PR profession, Ivy Lee. https://traffic.libsyn.com/shapingopinion/89_-_The_Ludlow_Massacre_-_The_Birth_of_PR.mp3   During the summer of 1913, the united Mine Workers labor union started to try to organize the 11,000 coal miners at John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Company. Most of these workers were immigrants from Italy, Greece and Serbia. They had been brought in to replace other workers who had gone on strike 10 years earlier. Their grievances centered on low pay, long hours and allegations of corruption. In short order, these 8,000 employees went on strike. They wanted a 10 percent pay raise, an eight-hour work day, and the right to live and trade outside of the company-owned town. Everything they wanted was already required by Colorado law, but enforcement of the law was another issue. Not long after they went on strike, the workers were evicted from their company-owned homes. That’s when they decided to set up make-shift tent cities surrounding the mines in which they had worked. The largest of the tent cities was known as the Ludlow Camp. John D. Rockefeller decided to hire a detective agency, which was staffed by a group of roughnecks out of Texas. The detectives would periodically raid the striking workers’ camps. Sometimes they’d fire off their weapons, rifles and shotguns, to intimidate the striking workers and their families. By November, the Colorado governor called in the Colorado National guard at the request of the company. The Guard formed militias, and their members carried out more raids and shootings in the tent cities. The strike went on through the winter and in the Spring, Rockefeller appeared before Congress. He described the standoff as a “national issue, whether workers shall be allowed to work under such conditions as they may choose.” He said the workers were satisfied with their labor conditions. On April 20th, 1914, four militiamen brandished a machine gun at some of the striking workers. At some point, someone fired the first shot. It is not known who. But one thing that everyone agreed on is that a full day of gunfighting followed. That night, the National Guard set fire to the Ludlow camp. Thirteen residents who tried to run away, were shot and killed as the camp burned, and where many others burned to death. In the Ludlow camp, there was a hospital tent called the women’s infirmary for sick women and their children. The day after the Ludlow raid, four women and 11 children were found. All of the children and two of the women were killed. Mary Petrucci was one of the survivors. She lost three of her children in that infirmary fire. Fire wasn’t the only weapon of choice. The National Guard had sprayed the Ludlow camp with machine gun fire. At least 66 were killed, including those women and children. News of the Ludlow Massacre, as it would quickly be known, spread. It filled newspapers across the country and brought government and public pressure down on John D. Rockefeller in ways he never anticipated. Fraser Seitel is one of the senior statesmen in the PR field today, and over the years, he himself had served as a spokesperson for the Rockefeller Family. By the time he took on his role, both the PR profession and the Rockefeller Family had evolved. In this episode we talk about the role Ivy Lee played after the event in changing the way Rockefeller thought about his role in the tragedy, the workers themselves and the responsibility he and his business interests had to the community.
Richard Nixon After Watergate – Episode 88
Shaping Opinion
Historian and author Kasey Pipes joins Tim to talk about the Richard Nixon that may get lost in a world of tweets and social media posts, and that is the 20-year post-presidency of Nixon that had a meaningful impact on the United States’ foreign policy and place in a changing world. Kasey tells of Richard Nixon’s years in exile, and then his unlikely comeback that few if any could have predicted. By the time he died, Nixon had become an elder statesman and an advisor to other presidents, both Democrat and Republican. https://traffic.libsyn.com/shapingopinion/87_-_Richard_Nixon_After_Watergate.mp3   On August 9th, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first and only U.S. president to resign from office. Most may not realize today that he was never impeached. Though impeachment was imminent as a result of the Watergate scandal that brought down his presidency. What few could have predicted was how Richard Nixon would respond after leaving the White House that late summer day. But in less than ten years, he had re-established himself as an advisor to presidents on campaign strategy and foreign policy. He helped influence U.S.-Soviet relations, and he was asked to represent the United States at state funerals. In short, by then he had become a respected elder statesman. Kasey Pipes decided to take a deep dive into those years to find out just how the former president did it. In this episode we talk about: Resignation Day The Pardon The David Frost Interviews A Self-less Gesture from a Former Political Foe Nixon’s role in the Reagan Foreign Policy Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, an Unlikely Alliance Links After the Fall: The Remarkable Comeback of Richard Nixon, by Kasey S. Pipes (Amazon) Kasey S. Pipes (website) Richard Nixon Presidential Library Richard Nixon, Biography.com About this Episode’s Guest Kasey Pipes Kasey Pipes served as an advisor to President George W. Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is co-founder of the issues management firm Corley Pipes, partner at the public affairs firm High Water Strategies, and the Norris Fellow at the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College. His writings have appeared in USA Today and Politico, and he is the author of Ike’s Final Battle: The Road to Little Rock and the Challenge of Equality.
The Last Pirate, The First Celebrity Gangster – Episode 87
Shaping Opinion
Author Rich Cohen joins Tim to talk about his latest book called The Last Pirate of New York. As the title would suggest, it’s about the end of the days of pirates in New York, and the birth of the celebrity gangster, all in the story of one man, Albert Hicks and the grisly case in 1860 that changed the way Americans saw crime. https://traffic.libsyn.com/shapingopinion/Last_Pirate_of_New_York_auphonic.mp3   In the 1990s John Gotti was the face of organized crime in New York, following a long tradition of gangsters in the Big Apple. Long before him, there was Lucky Luciano and Tammany Hall. But where did it all get started? And who started it all? These are the kinds of questions that were on the mind of Rich Cohen as he dug deeper and deeper into New York’s organized crime history. The end result was his book, “The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation.” The Scene on March 21, 1860 A boat adrift. The crew of the J.R. Mather saw it when the boats crashed into each other. Saw a darkened, lifeless boat but had to get back to port to fix their own damage quickly. Another boat came upon it less than an hour later. That boat was the Telegraph. They boarded the boat. The EA Johnson (an oyster sloop) was found on March 21st 1860. It was floating in New York’s Lower Bay off Brooklyn. Its foresails were torn off during a predawn collision with the J.R. Mather. The scene was grisly. The crew had vanished, but down in the cabin, the crew found ax marks in the ceiling and the floor, a sailor’s shirt with slash marks from a knife, and drawers and closets ransacked. Pools of blood ran from beam to beam as the ship swayed in the waves. Blood was everywhere. The Police detectives would find four amputated fingers and a thumb still clinging to the starboard rail. Newspapers and Public Reaction Word of mouth was extremely powerful and fast at that time. Word would spread through the ship crews and in the taverns and tenements. The shipyards and maritime life was centered in what is now the Financial District. The major newspapers that covered the crime were the New York Herald, New York Sun, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the New York Times. The police followed the perpetrator’s trail to him. Albert Hicks was described as stalky and strong and handsome. He was also described as having an unsettling look in his eyes. He was an alcoholic. Known as aloof and a mean drunk. He had a wife and a son who did not know of his alternate life. He was a career criminal known as a “pirate.” He would admit to committing crimes from New Orleans to Hawaii, always coming back to New York. He used an alias which was “William Johnson.” The Trial He was held in a large prison building called the Halls of Justice, but they were better known as the Tombs because they resembled the tombs of the ancient Egyptians. Corruption was rampant. Some prisoners had it pretty good thanks to bribes to the warden and jail guards. Hicks didn’t have it that good. The trial at U.S. Circuit Court on Chambers Street drew standing room only crowds. Hicks became a prototype of an American architype – the celebrity gangster. The U.S. marshal detaining Hicks at The Tombs prison was a corrupt politician and gambling kingpin who also ran the toughest gang in Five Points. Hicks confessed to stealing $150 in gold and silver coins; $26 in money; a watch from the captain and some clothes. After being found guilty and sentenced, Hicks was executed on Bedloe’s Island. That island is better known as Liberty Island today, where the Statue of Liberty now stands. Links The Last Pirate of New York, by Rich Cohen (Amazon) A Walking Tour of New York, Circa 1860, Accompanied by the Last Pirate, Vulture "The Last Pirate of New York" Review, Wall Street Journal About this Episode’s Guest Rich Cohen Photo Credit: Pascal Perich
Breaking IN to Auschwitz – Episode 86
Shaping Opinion
Former war correspondent and author Jack Fairweather joins Tim to talk about the one man who elected to volunteer to be taken prisoner to fight the Nazi’s from inside of Auschwitz during World War II. Jack tells Tim why the world is only learning more about Witold Pilecki now, and how his story of bravery, heroics and the ultimate sacrifice almost was lost to history. Pilecki took on one of the most daunting tasks anyone would take in the war. https://traffic.libsyn.com/shapingopinion/The_Volunteer_auphonic.mp3   Think about this for a second. He’s the only known voluntary inmate of Auschwitz. He spent spent two and a half years as a member of the Resistance, gathering intelligence from German army during World War II from inside the concentration camp. Now, let that sink in. Witold Pilecki was a member of the Polish army, and on September 19th 1940, he intentionally allowed himself to be arrested by the Nazis. After that he was detained with roughly 1,800 Polish political prisoners, and then he was taken to Auschwitz, where he would be imprisoned for the next two and a half years. To his captors, he was nothing more than Prisoner 4859. Click here to buy book via Amazon Here’s what happened. Pilecki, a Catholic, had already served in the Polish Army and married a local school teacher named Maria before the hostilities started. They had two children. He ran the family farm, painted and wrote poetry and lived a quiet life. In 1939, he was called back to military service when the Nazis invaded Poland. Poland was quickly defeated and became occupied by the German army. After that, Pilecki found his way to Warsaw to serve as part of the underground resistance against the Nazis. Not long after that, in August of 1940, the Nazis had taken prisoner a group of Polish political opponents and transported them to Auschwitz. It didn’t take long before the families of those prisoners were notified of their deaths. The Polish underground suspected murder, but needed more information. That was when he volunteered to investigate from the inside. After two and a half years, he would escape and write a 100-page report on life inside the Auschwitz death camp. The Mission In October 1940, Pilecki successfully sent out his first report with a released inmate. It reached the Polish Government-in-exile in March 1941, who passed it onto the Allies. At the time of Pilecki’s internment, Auschwitz was a concentration camp intended to hold predominantly political prisoners from Poland. He witnessed the changing demographic and horrifying treatment of each persecuted group. His reports described the early experiments conducted on Soviet prisoners of war, who were murdered with poisonous gas. This laid the foundations for the mass-murder of many Jews in the purpose-built gas chambers and crematoria. He described the pain suffered by other prisoners undergoing experiments against their will; many died from their injuries. Pilecki over time met fellow members of the Polish underground and began to create a secret organization inside Auschwitz. The organization ran at great risk. They built a radio transmitter from smuggled parts. Through this transmitter, he reported on conditions inside the camp, and he told of the number of deaths. At some point he had to stop communicating for risk of being discovered. Witold Pilecki Escapes Pilecki escaped Auschwitz in April 1943. He decided to escape this time because key members of his organization were sent to other concentration camps. He felt he would get transferred, too. He and two others only had one night to carry out their plan. They knew if they failed, they’d be hung in a public execution. They removed the bolts from a heavy door while the guards’ backs were turned. All three traveled about 100 miles over one week on foot to reach safety. Freedom and Captivity Once Again Pilecki found refuge at a friend’s parents’ home,
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Episode Count
Podcast Count
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2 days, 7 hours