Mike McAlary

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Mike McAlary (December 15, 1957 – December 25, 1998)[1] was an American journalist and columnist who worked at the New York Daily News for 12 years, beginning with the police beat. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998[2] and died of colon cancer in the same year at the age of 41.[3]

Life and career[edit]

McAlary had been a sportswriter in Boston and with the New York Post, then became a reporter for New York Newsday in 1985 before leaving for the Daily News to become a columnist. He also wrote columns for the Post, jumping frequently between it and the "Daily News".

In 1988, McAlary wrote a non-fiction book, Buddy Boys, about corrupt police in New York's 77th Precinct, in the Brooklyn North patrol borough. He also had a hand in writing the script for the movie Cop Land, starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro. In The Paper directed by Ron Howard, a columnist named McDougal and played by Randy Quaid may have been based on McAlary, who had a cameo role in the filim.

In 1990, McAlary wrote a piece referring to a gang leader named Lefty. Four years later, he interviewed Lefty anew. By then the former gang leader was a decorated soldier, family man, and college student. He attributed his about-face to McAlary's 1990 article. McAlary ended his 1994 piece by writing, "I am humbled by his talent. Sure, as a columnist, you can get people indicted and even free the wrongly accused. That is what you do. But from now on, I know, at least once, I wrote a story that mattered." [4] For the Daily News McAlary exposed the torture of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, by New York City Police at a Brooklyn station in August 1997. Next year he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary citing his coverage of the story from August to October.[2][5] He was also a finalist in the category Breaking News Reporting, re-classed as Commentary by the Board.[6]

His idols were New York journalists Jimmy Breslin, Murray Kempton, and Pete Hamill. During his reporting of the Louima case, McAlary was being treated for colon cancer, and left a chemotherapy session after getting a tip about the assault. He died on Christmas Day 1998, at age 41, eight months after winning the Pulitzer.[7] He was a resident of Bellport, New York, at the time of his death.[1]

The Wood, playwright Dan Klores's drama based on McAlary's life, premiered at Manhattan's Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in August 2011.[8]

Lucky Guy, another play about McAlary, this one written by Nora Ephron, opened on Broadway in a limited run on April 1, 2013, starring the playwright's longtime friend and film colleague Tom Hanks.[9]



  1. ^ a b Firestone, David (December 26, 1998). "Mike McAlary, 41, Columnist With Swagger to Match City's". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  2. ^ a b "The 1998 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Commentary". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-10-31. With short biography and reprints of 7 works (Daily News articles from August 13 to October 10, 1997).
  3. ^ Martin Garbus, "The damage done by a 'Lucky Guy', The New York Times, April 2, 2013.
  4. ^ McAlary, Mike (November 14, 1994). "Hero builds a life after pal's death". Daily News.
  5. ^ "Mike McAlary's 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning Abner Louima columns". Daily News. August 13, 2007. With linked directory to 9 Daily News articles published August 13 to October 10, 1997. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  6. ^ "1998 Finalists". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  7. ^ David Firestone, "Mike McAlary, 41, Columnist With Swagger to Match the City's," New York Times, December 26, 1998 [1]
  8. ^ McElroy, Steven (August 28, 2011). "The Week Ahead: Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-28. 
  9. ^ Healy, Patrick (February 20, 2013). "Tom Hanks, Broadway's New Kid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 

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