Mike McAlary

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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 for exposing an act of police brutality,[2] and was sued for libel by a woman he accused of falsely claiming that she had been raped. He died of colon cancer in 1998 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 film.

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]

McAlary's most controversial story, for the Daily News in 1994, was about a woman who said she had been raped while walking home with groceries through Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. Unnamed police sources told McAlary that she made up the story, because she wanted to promote a rally about violence against lesbians. McAlary's police sources said there were inconsistencies in her story, and a lack of physical evidence, but the police department later discovered DNA evidence. No arrests were made at the time. McAlary accepted the original police story, and wrote three columns about it, including one headlined, "Rape hoax the real crime." The woman sued McAlary for libel, but the case was dismissed because McAlary had been relying on information from the police. In 2018, using advanced modern techniques, the police matched the DNA to James Edward Webb, who had already been convicted of serial rape and was serving 75 years to life in prison for those other crimes. The statute of limitations had already expired to prosecute Webb for the Prospect Park case.[7][8][9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]



  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. ^ Police say they’ve cracked rape case columnist deemed a hoax By Colleen Long,  AP, Washington Post, January 9, 2018
  8. ^ New York City police solve 1994 rape case that newspaper called a hoax, Guardian, 9 Jan 2018
  9. ^ "DNA Helps New York Police Solve Infamous 1994 Rape Case". Retrieved 2018-01-13. 
  10. ^ David Firestone, "Mike McAlary, 41, Columnist With Swagger to Match the City's," New York Times, December 26, 1998 [1]
  11. ^ McElroy, Steven (August 28, 2011). "The Week Ahead: Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-28. 
  12. ^ Healy, Patrick (February 20, 2013). "Tom Hanks, Broadway's New Kid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 

External links[edit]