A quick celebration of 2020’s Pulitzer commentary finalists: Sally Jenkins and Steve Lopez

May 5, 2020

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The New York Times Magazine’s Nikole Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for her essay on “The 1619 Project.” We wrote more about her win here, but the category’s two finalists are also worth celebrating.

Washington Post sports columnist Sally Jenkins was a well-deserved finalist for commentary.

The daughter of legendary sportswriter Dan Jenkins, Sally Jenkins is, for my money, the best sports columnist in the business.

She is strong in her opinions, but isn’t over-the-top. She doesn’t fake anger, yet doesn’t back down. She rarely, if ever, swings and misses, and she’s at her best when she stands at the crossroads of sports and society, as she did in this Pulitzer entry about the U.S. women’s soccer team.

Here is her other nominated work.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez was a finalist in the commentary category for the third time in the past four years and for the fourth time overall. He has never won a Pulitzer, but that should not take away from the fact that he is one of the best columnists in the country.

No reporter I know has become a bigger advocate for the plight of the homeless than Lopez. He might be best known for his book, “The Soloist,” about Nathaniel Ayers, a cello prodigy who developed schizophrenia and later became homeless. The book was turned into a movie starring Jamie Foxx as Ayers and Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez.

Lopez’s nominated work again this year was about the homeless.

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.


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  • Tom, Sally and Steve are among the best in the business. Their longevity matters as it does in sports. Year after year, column after column, they both use their distinctive voices to help us think through the challenges of the day. I don’t see them as “finalists.” I see them as each having won a medal in the journalism Olympics. Cheers.