Finish Lines: Tom O’Boyle

Tom O’Boyle at Beverly Heights Presbyterian Church in Mt Lebanon. O’Boyle recently became Director of Communications after retiring from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tom O’Boyle has a storied career in journalism, working at such venerable institutions as the Wall Street Journal (where he worked in Pittsburgh and Germany) and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he worked for 25 years before retiring in 2018. He wrote “At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit,” and taught at both Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon universities.

While assistant managing editor at the Post-Gazette, he supervised Martha Rial’s photography assignment covering the survivors of conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. He is now the director of communications for Beverly Heights Presbyterian Church. He and his wife, Louise, live on Hoodridge Drive.

Where do you see local journalism going in the future? The future of local journalism not just in Pittsburgh but everywhere looks bleak. New business models haven’t emerged to sustain it. They may not, which worries me. The public little appreciates how a free press maintains democracy.
It helps keep politicians honest.

During your journalism career, how did you balance your strong faith with the requirement to write objectively? Context is always important. Faith made me a better person and journalist, but I rarely shared my faith when I interviewed someone. I did with co-workers if the relationship was sufficiently developed. When I taught journalism in the classroom, I was careful about what I said. When I wrote opinion pieces, I was free to share my faith openly and I did, regularly.

What aspects of your career prepared you to work for Beverly Heights Presbyterian Church? Communications in a church setting is not a lot different than in a newspaper. You still have an audience you must reach and engage. While the methods do not differ, the message does. As an evangelical church, we have a deep conviction that Christ changes lives, and I convey that message with as much enthusiasm and skill as God grants to me.

Describe the skill set tomorrow’s journalists will need. The skill is a traditional one: the disinterested pursuit of truth. That’s what
distinguishes journalism from other forms of communication and why it is so valuable. Truth emerges not from people, who are incapable of objectivity, but methodology, a way of perceiving and evaluating truth. Sadly, this skill is sorely lacking not only among journalists today but in our entire culture.

Photography: Martha Rial