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]

McAlary's columns about a 1994 rape victim, accusing her of fabricating her rape in Prospect Park, Brooklyn for political reasons, were based on police sources that turned out to be inaccurate. During a deposition in the resulting libel suit against him, McAlary admitted that he never contacted the rape victim or any witness to the crime. He also admitted that he never read the police, lab and hospital reports whose findings he incorrectly described.[3]

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. ^ a b 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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