(NEW YORK)— PEN America will honor Paul Simon with the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award at its annual gala on Thursday, May 16, to celebrate his indelible lyrics, boundless contributions to our canon and elevation of essential cultures over nearly six decades. Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, will receive the Business Visionary award, reflecting his company’s commitment to the free press and persistence in demanding the release of Evan Gershkovich, the Journal reporter jailed in Russia. 

For the 15th year, the writers’ organization will hold its annual Literary Gala under the 94-foot blue whale at Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History. The dinner brings together writers, journalists, publishers, editors, humanitarians, and cultural influencers to support PEN America’s global literary and arts programming and advocacy for the right to free expression and the freedoms to speak, read and write. 

A notably festive, star-studded and high-profile evening, the annual dinner honors extraordinary contributors in literature, the arts, journalism, publishing, and film, alongside courageous individuals who have stood up for free expression against oppressive regimes. Last year’s conferral of the Gala’s PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award to imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi kicked off a global campaign that culminated in Mohammadi being awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize in December. 

The celebration draws 700 + supporters with many dozens of acclaimed writers seated at each table as literary hosts. Past writer-hosts include Ayad Akhtar, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Robert Caro, Ron Chernow, Neil Gaiman, Jhumpa Lahiri, Min Jin Lee, Jay McInerney, Lynn Nottage, Jodi Picoult, Salman Rushdie, Gary Shteyngart, Gay Talese, and many more. 

Simon will join an illustrious group of past literary honorees including President Barack Obama and Ava DuVernay and PEN/Barbey Literary Service Award recipients Margaret Atwood, Bob Woodward, Stephen King, Patti Smith, the late Toni Morrison and Stephen Sondheim, Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Zadie Smith and last year, Saturday Night Live (SNL) creator, writer and executive producer Lorne Michaels

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said: “Paul Simon has inspired fans worldwide with lyrics and songs that entire generations know by heart and can recognize from the very first notes. His fascination with different cultures, traditions and rhythms have helped open our ears and minds to essential musical traditions. We are elated to pay tribute to this unparalleled creative artist whose music, along with his commitment to humane values and humanitarian causes, has made him a cultural icon.” 

Born in Newark, N.J. and raised in Queens, N.Y. Simon’s restless musical journey has transformed the American songbook with evocative and universally resonant storytelling that roams the landscape from the bodegas of New York City and the highways of New Jersey to Graceland, the bayous of Louisiana, and across continents. Taking inspiration from the sounds of the American South, Cuba, South Africa, South America and the British isles, he expanded our understanding of humanity through his uniquely blended rhythms and songs. 

Over the last difficult year since Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was wrongfully arrested and taken prisoner by Russian authorities while on a reporting trip, Almar Latour has powerfully demonstrated his unwavering commitment to free press and leading the publisher’s efforts toward securing Evan’s freedom. A former journalist, who rose through the Journal’s ranks, he has stewarded Dow Jones and the Journal to become a rare news media success in the digital age.  He is an advocate for free press and has led his company in its fight for the release of Evan Gershkovich. 

Jennifer Finney Boylan, the author, president of PEN America, and one of this year’s literary hosts, said of Latour: “At a time when facts and truth are in question, the Wall Street Journal’s role as a source of credible, reported news is indispensable. Almar’s commitment to delivering trusted news and information and building sustainable news operations is a lifelong calling. His fierce support for press freedom and for Evan has been inspiring.” 

In the months ahead, PEN America will announce the gala host as well as other honorees and presenters, including the recipients of the PEN/Benenson Freedom of Expression Courage Award, devoted to exceptional acts of courage in the exercise of free expression, and the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, given to an internationally jailed writer of conscience. 

Previous hosts have included Colin Jost, John Oliver, Awkwafina and Faith Salie. Special guests in past years have included Lupita N’yongo, Michael Douglas, Ruth Negga, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Asia Kate Dillon, Meryl Streep, Sarah Jessica Parker, Morgan Freeman and many others

The gala will begin with a VIP reception at 6 pm, followed by a cocktail reception at 6:30 pm, and dinner and awards at 7:30 pm. The after party and dessert will follow at 9:30 pm. 

For sponsorship information, please call 646-880-6116 or email: [email protected]. Individual tickets will be available in April. 

For more information about the gala, visit: www.pen.org/gala 

PEN America Gala Honorees/Bios

About Paul Simon

Songwriter, Recording Artist, Philanthropist

During his distinguished career spanning seven decades, musician Paul Simon has produced an unparalleled body of work including timeless masterpieces, such as Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, and Graceland. Venerated as one of the greatest songwriters of all time and “popular music’s premier poet of the human condition,”

Simon has received 16 Grammy Awards and has been twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, and was presented the Library of Congress’ inaugural Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which recognizes the profound and positive effect of popular music on the world’s culture.

Simon was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011, and in 2012 named laureate of the prestigious Polar Music Prize along with Yo-Yo Ma. In 2019, Paul Simon was the first musician to be presented the Great Americans Medal by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. His song “Mrs. Robinson,” from the film The Graduate, was named in the top ten of the AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Songs.

In 2023, Simon released his ambitious and widely acclaimed 33-minute, seven-movement masterwork, Seven Psalms, which earned him his 36th Grammy nomination and topped critics’ Album of the Year lists – lauded as “A masterpiece” by MOJO’s David Fricke, and “Profound” by The Times of London. Simon’s journey through the making of Seven Psalms is featured in director Alex Gibney’s career-spanning documentary, In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon.

Simon’s philanthropic work includes the co-founding of the Children’s Health Fund, which brings health care to low-income children and their families around the United States. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, which is committed to stopping the species extinction crisis through conservation. Over his career, Simon has raised millions of dollars for worthy causes, and in 2018 made a $1 million gift to the NYC Department of Education and Fund for Public Schools, to invest in music and art programs.

About Almar Latour

Almar Latour is Publisher of The Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones, a world-leading  news and business information services company. Dow Jones is a division of News Corp (Nasdaq: NWS, NWSA; ASX: NWS, NWSLV).

A journalist-turned-business leader, Almar combines a passion for news and technology with rich global experience and an entrepreneurial drive. Under his leadership, Dow Jones has doubled digital subscriptions and achieved record profits and revenue, while safeguarding the Wall Street Journal’s reputation as one of the world’s most-trusted news organizations. 

Almar has an extensive track record of building successful news media businesses in the digital age. He oversaw the creation of the Barron’s Group, quadrupling the group’s digital audience at Barron’s and MarketWatch, and led the highly-successful modernization of The Wall Street Journal’s website during the global financial crisis, setting the stage for the Journal’s first million digital subscriptions. Almar also led the development of The Wall Street Journal in Japan, Korea and China. 

Almar has worked on three continents and has been stationed as a journalist in Brussels, London, Stockholm, New York and Hong Kong. Among a wide range of topics, he has reported on Central and Eastern Europe, technology and the rise of mobile phones, the Nordics and the Baltics as well as numerous mega-mergers. He broke the story of the indictment of Bernie Ebbers, the CEO of WorldCom. In addition to being a reporter, he has served as a bureau chief in New York, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal online, and the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones in Asia-Pacific before being appointed the Journal’s Executive Editor. 

Almar regularly discusses issues including the business of media, press freedom, global affairs and journalism in the era of generative AI. He started as a news assistant in Washington, D.C.

He is a native of the Netherlands and lives in New York City.


About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057