popular show, “Pardon the Interruption,” and sports columnist for The Washington Post, has perhaps become best known for his work in television, but in a talk in Sudler Hall Wednesday evening, he emphasized his deep-rooted ties to print journalism.
During the talk, hosted by the Poynter Fellowship, Wilbon discussed numerous issues pertaining to sports journalism and the sports industry in general in front of a packed audience. Though Wilbon began by recounting his career experiences, he spent the rest of the talk fielding student questions, with topics ranging from the current steroid controversy in professional baseball to his transition from being a college student at Northwestern University to being a sports columnist.
In their show, Wilbon and co-host Tony Kornheiser, another Washington Post columnist, debate current issues in sports. Wilbon acknowledged that while most people recognize him from his show, he considers himself more than a television host, explaining that his show comes from the relationships that he has developed with prominent sports figures during his 25 years of sports writing.
“While we love what we do, we’re still writers,” Wilbon said. “What I am at heart is a writer.”
Wilbon, who also spoke at a Pierson College Master’s Tea on Wednesday, lamented that more and more people are turning away from the “dying” newspaper industry and watching television for news. People in general, he said, have lost sight of the “forgotten arts” of written communication.
“People don’t read and write anymore,” Wilbon said.
During the question-and-answer portion of the discussion, Wilbon talked about the recent baseball steroid controversy. One student asked Wilbon if he thought too much attention was being focused on minority players who are accused of steroid use. But Wilbon said he believes the investigation focused on people of all backgrounds.
“It’s the equal-opportunity slant,” Wilbon said.
Blaming Major League Baseball for not regulating steroid usage from the beginning and for promoting a “culture of cheating,” Wilbon said he understood that players may have used steroids to remain competitive and win.
“I understand why players would do it,” Wilbon said. “That’s the nature of competition; you want to get better.”
Other students focused their questions on Wilbon’s career as a journalist. When asked what type of sports player he likes to interview, Wilbon said he prefers speaking with athletes who talk about more than just sports.
He referred to his longtime friend Charles Barkley, whom he met during Barkley’s sophomore year at Auburn University.
“We get into arguments about all types of stuff,” Wilbon said. “Charles is not afraid. He is a real guy.”
Wilbon also explained his approach to press conferences.
“I don’t anticipate answers,” he said. “I ask questions to reach an understanding.”
Student interest in the talk was high, with over 100 audience members in attendance.
One student from the audience said he found the talk entertaining.
“I thought he was very approachable, and I thought he had very unique insights,” Matthew Baker ’06 said. “It was fun coming here and listening to him talk, just like watching his show.”
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