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PEN America Literary Awards finalists announced; Ben Smith leaves BuzzFeed

Bryan Washington. Photo: David Gracia

The finalists for the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards were announced yesterday. Nominees across all nine categories include Anne Boyer’s The Undying, Ben Moser’s Sontag, Bryan Washington’s Lot, Jamil Jan Kochai’s 99 Nights in Logar, and Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, among many others. A full list of finalists can be found here. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in March.

Jack Fairweather has won this year’s Costa Book of the Year prize for his biography of Polish resistance fighter Witold Pilecki.

BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith is leaving the website to take over Jim Rutenberg's media column at the New York Times, NBC reports. “It's been the privilege of my life to do this job, in its many iterations, for more than eight years,” Smith told his staff. “The notion that BuzzFeed could play a major role in shaping global news, and the news business—from tweets to streaming shows—sounded crazy in 2012. Now it's just a fact, the product of most of all of your hard work, creativity, aggressiveness, and judgement.”, a new online bookselling platform for independent booksellers, launched yesterday. “I believe indies need a piece of online sales to safeguard their future, and the book community needs more revenue streams,” CEO Andy Hunter said. “I hope that Bookshop can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and online cultural coverage by providing an alternative to Amazon for socially-conscious online book buyers.”

Craig Newmark is donating $1 million to ProPublica for the website’s Electionland reporting project.

After a confrontation with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has dropped another NPR journalist, Michele Kelemen, from the press pool for his trip to Europe. “The State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange,” State Department Correspondents’ Association president Shaun Tandon said. “The State Department press corps has a long tradition of accompanying secretaries of state on their travels and we find it unacceptable to punish an individual member of our association.”

The Washington Post Guild has written an open letter criticizing the Washington Post’s decision to suspend reporter Felicia Sonmez for her social media posts about Kobe Bryant in the wake of the athlete's death. “We understand the hours after Bryant’s death Sunday were a fraught time to share reporting about past accusations of sexual assault,” they write. “But we believe it is our responsibility as a news organization to tell the public the whole truth as we know it—about figures and institutions both popular and unpopular, at moments timely and untimely.”