BILL O'DRISCOLL — arts editor for City Paper of Pittsburgh

Bill O'Driscoll
photo by Renee Rosensteel

After college,
the most noteworthy thing

I did remains driving
around the country

in my van for a year,
working odd jobs,

including crewing on
a fishing boat in Alaska.


New American Dream Interview

BILL O'DRISCOLL, 43, lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He is the arts & entertainment editor for Pittsburgh City Paper.

He graduated from Northwestern University in 1987 with a degree in journalism.

More about Bill O'Driscoll:


The New American Dream Trivia Question:

To win something be the last person to correctly answer the following.

Bill O'Driscoll would rather be ....

a. Able to tell people what Pittsburgh is really like
b. Selling catsup at Heinz Field
c. Able to avoid spelling Monongahela ever effing again
d. Making the big bucks at the Post-Gazette
e. Covering the Steelers, with free Iron City through the third period
f. Sitting in the balcony


"Answer would certainly be "a" among these


NAD: Bill, hello, thank you for taking the time for this.

So, you must review books, movies, music?

Which do you do for fun and which for work?

I run the arts section, and also write, most frequently about theater, books and film, though I formally "review" mostly in only the latter two categories.

We have a separate music editor, so I scarcely write about that at all.

I also write about environmental issues for the paper.

As to "fun" and "work," sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

I try to make it so a fair amount of what I read for "work" is also fun and rewarding, and as much as possible of what I write is something I'm passionate about.

NAD: I was in Pittsburgh and drove through this tunnel and then boom! there is Pittsburgh, like you are driving into an IMAX screen. It's amazing and beautiful and surprising.

Do you hear that a lot? Or not.

One article you wrote was about Pittsburgh being a cultural center. Do you really believe that or was that written on deadline?

Yeah, that's the southerly entrance to the city through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

It is pretty spectacular and it's kind of our calling card. Or one of them.

Not sure what article you are referring to, but I'd agree that Pittsburgh is a cultural center.

Though of course that depends on your definition of culture.

One of the things I like about the town is that there is enough old money and foundation money and popular support to keep "traditional" things like museums and libraries and the symphony and the opera going, along with quite a few high-quality, more cutting-edge middle-sized groups, and that it's cheap enough to live here that almost anybody can afford to start an art gallery, band or theater group.

NAD: Would you like to choose one of these to answer, elaborate on?

We don't ask this to make fun. We ask because we really seek the answers.

Are UFOs real?
Did we land on the moon in 1968?
Did Bush knock down the towers?
Was Paul Wellstone's death an accident?
The Oklahoma City bombing? Wasn't that just another U.S. government terrorist exercise? Or not.
Waco. We burned kids, right? You can see flames shooting out of the tanks. Or not.
Is Bigfoot real?
Is there a God?

... What makes you think that?

I'll answer the moon one, partly because just the other week someone I thought I knew fairly well told me she didn't believe men had walked on the moon.

Though of course I can't prove it, I'm pretty sure we did ... but I think the more interesting question is why we still have a space program at all, let alone a manned one.

I understand that the idea at first was to demonstrate Cold War military dominance, but for the past couple decades, I can't think of a bigger boondoggle, a bigger waste of valuable resources, than the manned space program (except maybe the Iraq War).

I also mention my opposition to the space program because people HATE it when I say that, and get kind of agog, which is also fun.

NAD: What did you do before? Your bio, in five lines. Six.

After college, the most noteworthy thing I did remains driving around the country in my van for a year, working odd jobs, including crewing on a fishing boat in Alaska.

After that, living in Philadelphia and, since 1991, Pittsburgh, I've been a free-lance journalist (supplemented with stints staffing groups homes for disabled persons); the editor and sole employee of a monthly neighborhood newspaper; and with City Paper, first as a staff writer and as arts editor since 2004.

NAD: Do you have hope in books? The book industry? In reading?

Is this the death of American culture?

Or, did it ever live?

Or, is it just the evolution of?

It's hard to have much hope in anything much of the time, not least any kind of print-on-paper media.

Books have a better chance than daily newspapers, I guess, so it follows that the book industry does, even though most of it doesn't really deserve to prosper.

I imagine people will always read, but that's a dubious hope if they are reading crap.

"Death of American culture": Culture by nature evolves, so I guess I can't tell if it's dead until I know which incarnation we're talking about.

NAD: Does your favorite coffee cup have words on it? What are they?

What did you absolutely have to get done by noon today?

How about by Christmas 2009?

At work, where most of my coffee is drunk, I cadge them from the cabinet and don't much care what they say.

At home, my favorite ones have my wife's name inscribed on their bases, because she made them when she did pottery.

By noon today I had to finish my contribution to our paper's "short list" column of highlighted events.

A weekly struggle, but those 100-word items are probably among the most-read parts of the paper.

By Christmas 2009 I will have hoped to have written and published a series of articles that will convince everyone to unconditionally press for immediate and massive action to prevent the worst effects of global climate change and other budding environmental disasters.

But you know how New Year's resolutions go ...

NAD: What else would you like to add? What else should I have asked?

I think I'm talked out. Thanks.



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