Bill was a political and investigative reporter in Washington from the 1980s until 2020, when he joined the University of Maryland's Howard Center for Investigative Journalism as a visiting professional. Fruits of those labors digging into saltwater intrusion, a lesser known impact from the climate crisis, can be found here and in the archives of various newspapers.
In 2021, Bill became a partner with his wife, Sandra Olivetti Martin, in New Bay Books, a publishing house.
Bill began his career as an intern and later a correspondent in the Illinois Statehouse, in his home state. He became a St Louis Post-Dispatch Washington correspondent in 1984 and later bureau chief. In 2013 he joined the Hearst Newspapers Washington Bureau as a national investigative reporter and later wrote primarily for Hearst's Texas papers, among them the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle.
He has won a number of journalism prizes and was nominated for the Pulitzer on multiple occasions. He is the author of two books, including the acclaimed Dinner at the New Gene Café. He is co-founder of his family's Bay Weekly in Annapolis, the largest weekly newspaper covering Chesapeake Bay -- sold in early 2020 to Chesapeake Bay Media.
Bill covered presidential campaigns starting in the 1980s, attending 16 national conventions. He focused a fair amount on Congress, albeit grudgingly after toxic politics left Capitol Hill largely incapable of dealing with Americans’ problems. Over the years he has reported often at the intersection of politics and science on a mix of public policy matters, from biotechnology to biofuels to water policy on America’s big rivers. He has conducted many environmental investigations, some on foreign soils.
Bill has operated in many places. For stories – and later a book -- on the global uprising over genetically modified food, he traveled in 12 countries, among them India, Brazil and Peru. From Yemen, he reported on honor killings and abuse of women. He did groundbreaking work on the “Circle of Poison,” reporting from across Central America on poisonings from pesticides banned or unregistered in the United States. Back home, he documented return of these dangerous chemicals on fruits and vegetables relying on data obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
In 2006, Bill reported from Nigeria on exploitative dumping, a topic he has returned to often. His story showed how computers and electronic detritus dropped off in the United States for recycling ended burned, scattered and polluting the West African countryside. That reporting scored a bonus exclusive: Nigerian fraudsters mining computers for Americans’ financial data and personal information. At a time when less was known about identity theft, hard-drives Bill purchased in Lagos open markets yielded Social Security numbers, medical records, school grade reports and even private photos of unsuspecting Americans.
Bill deploys water sampling in environmental sleuthing. Samples he retrieved in KwaZulu province in South Africa for an award-winning series contained some of the highest concentrations of mercury pollution on record. His reporting about the sham recycling of mercury wastes shipped from the United States triggered an international scandal, protests on three continents and later a visit to KwaZulu from Nelson Mandela when workers fell ill with nervous system disorders. (Curriculum vitae on request.)