Jim Dwyer, New York City Columnist, Dies at 63

Outside the New York Times building in New York City, August 3, 2020 (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

I was stunned to see we’ve lost Jim Dwyer, an old-school shoe-leather newspaperman who spent many years with Newsday, the Daily News, and the New York Times. Dwyer died of cancer at 63 on Thursday and won the Pulitzer Prize for his columns in 1995. Metro journalism seems to be a dying art these days, when most young journalists — I think Jim would, like Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, preferred to be known as a “reporter” — get into the business either because they want to cover national/international/sociological issues or because they want to do commentary, preferably on television. Dwyer went out there and hit the streets nosing around for something new, talking to ordinary people, gathering facts, notably rounding up the individual stories behind the Sept. 11 attacks that went into the book, 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers.

Dwyer once said that, having studied metro columnists such as Breslin, Hamlin, and Murray Kempton — all of them now departed — “From all of those guys, and so many more, I learned that you have to report. It might sound obvious, but that doesn’t make it less true. You have to report the hell out of a story. Then, maybe, you can write it.” Dwyer was interested in understanding, not grandstanding. It’s amazing what you can learn if you actually go out looking for stories rather than just pontificating over a chyron. R.I.P. to one of the greats.

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