Somber news from the journalism world on Thursday: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and columnist Jim Dwyer died of complications from lung cancer. He was 63. Dwyer was a legend, particularly in New York, where he worked for Newsday, The Daily News and The New York Times for nearly four decades.
In the obit of Dwyer, The New York Times’ Robert D. McFadden wrote, “In prose that might have leapt from best-selling novels, Mr. Dwyer portrayed the last minutes of thousands who perished in the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001; detailed the terrors of innocent Black youths pulled over and shot by racial-profiling state troopers on the New Jersey Turnpike; and told of the coronavirus besieging a New York City hospital.”
Dwyer won the 1995 Pulitzer for commentary for his Newsday columns, and was also a part of Newsday’s team that won the 1992 Pulitzer for spot reporting on a subway derailment in Manhattan.
He wrote his last column for the Times on May 26 of this year.
In a note to staff, New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet and metro editor Cliff Levy wrote that Dwyer was “a wondrously inventive writer and relentlessly dogged street reporter. He was a crusader for those facing injustice, and a chronicler of everyday lives on the subway. He had more friends than almost anyone in journalism because he was brilliant, thoughtful and very funny.”
Tributes poured in on Twitter. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was devastated by the news and added, “To say it’s a great loss to journalism is to understate it.” The Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones called it “a sad day for New York journalism.” And music star Rosanne Cash said, “His voice will be missed.”
Those are just a few examples.
In 2006, Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark wrote about his admiration for Dwyer, saying, “When I see the bylines of certain reporters, I will read whatever they write. Jim Dwyer of The New York Times is one of those. Jim has become, in my mind, the prose-poet of 9/11, the journalist who has, with a special decency and power, managed to chronicle the lingering effects of a horrible day.”
This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report.
Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. For the latest media news and analysis, delivered free to your inbox each and every weekday morning, sign up for his Poynter Report newsletter.