Damon Runyon Award
The Damon Runyon Award has been presented annually by the historic Denver Press Club each spring since 1994.
The award is named after Damon Runyon, a legendary journalist who grew up in Colorado, worked at The Denver Post and Pueblo Chieftain, and became a member of the Press Club in 1907.
Runyon later went on to fame and glory in New York City as a columnist for Hearst newspapers. He is best-known for a collection of stories called “Guys and Dolls,” which later turned into a Broadway musical and a movie.
The Runyon Award banquet is the major fundraiser of the historic club, which is the oldest in the nation. Proceeds go toward the club’s historic preservation and five scholarships for $1500 and one — the John C. Ensslin Memorial Scholarship — for $3,000. The scholarships are reserved for college journalists from universities in Colorado.
This year’s Damon Runyon Award ceremony will be April 14, 2023. Find more details here.
Damon Runyon Award Honorees
Steve Lopez, an award-winning Los Angeles Times columnist whose story of a mentally ill homeless musician inspired the movie “The Soloist,” is the 29th winner of the Denver Press Club’s Damon Runyon Award.
Lopez will be honored at the club’s Damon Runyon dinner on April 16 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1400 Welton St., in Denver. Tickets are on sale.
Lopez is a California native who has been a Times columnist since 2001, focusing on important community and societal issues – elder care, income inequality, housing and homelessness. He is a four-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary – in 2012, 2016, 2018, and 2020. In 2020, the Pulitzer Board lauded his “purposeful columns about rising homelessness in Los Angeles, which amplified calls for government action to deal with a long- visible public crisis.”
His columns cut deep – like one June 1, 2019, that began with a vivid description of current realities underscored with disbelief that they were unfolding in modern-day Los Angeles:
The good news is that two trash-strewn downtown Los Angeles streets I wrote about last week were cleaned up by city work crews and have been kept that way, as of this writing. The bad news is that I didn’t have to travel far to find more streets just as badly fouled by filthy mounds of junk and stinking, rotting food.
Then there was the news that the LAPD station on skid row was cited by the state for a rodent infestation and other unsanitary conditions, and that one employee there was infected with the strain of bacteria that causes typhoid fever.
What century is this?
“The Doctor Is In,” Lopez’s story about how easy it was to legally obtain medical marijuana in Southern California, was among a series of reports on television station KCET’s SoCal Connected show that was honored with the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in 2011. The duPont is among the most prestigious honors in broadcast journalism.
In addition, Lopez is also the author of three novels and two collections of his columns. His book, “The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music,” was a New York Times and Los Angeles Times best-seller and winner of the PEN USA Literary Award for Non-Fiction. The book was based on Lopez’s friendship with Nathaniel Ayers, a homeless musician living on Skid Row. Ayers had been a promising violinist but had left the Juilliard School as he struggled with mental illness. Lopez’s columns about Ayers led readers to send instruments to Lopez for Ayers. That friendship also eventually helped Ayers get help for his schizophrenia and get off the streets.
The book was inspired the DreamWorks movie “The Soloist,” starring Jamie Foxx as Ayers and Robert Downey Jr. as Lopez.
The Runyon is the Denver Press Club’s highest honor, and Lopez joins a list of previous winners that reads like an honor roll of American journalism: Jimmy Breslin, Mike Royko, Molly Ivins, Herb Caen, Pete Hamill, Ted Turner, Maureen Dowd, Tom Brokaw, David Halberstam, Ed Bradley, Carl Hiaasen, Seymour Hersh, George Will, Bob Costas, Tim Russert, Rick Reilly, P.J. O’Rourke, Anna Quindlen, Frank Deford, Mike Lupica, Katie Couric, Norm Clarke, Jill Abramson, David Simon, Marty Baron, Bob Woodward, Judy Woodruff and – in 2022 – Eugene Robinson.