ESPN journalists coach students on sports media

ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon poses with the 2017 cherubs. Staff photo

Students were in the midst of a story critique on the third day of the program when instructor Mary Lou Song said, “Pardon the interruption.” Then Mike Wilbon walked into the Fisk Hall auditorium to 82 shocked cherubs.

“When he came in, I couldn’t really believe it,” said Evan Kolin of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. “It was definitely a surreal experience. He’s someone I watch every day at home, a TV show.”

Wilbon is the co-host of “Pardon the Interruption.”  He talked about his journey up the ranks in the sports media industry. After graduating from Medill in 1980, Wilbon worked as an intern at The Washington Post. Now he appears daily on ESPN and covers Super Bowls, Olympics, Final Fours and NBA Finals.

Wilbon said journalists must feel passionate about their work. The message was timely — cherubs were still recovering from the all-day story — and it resonated.

“One thing he said that I definitely learned from, he said, ‘This is a passion job,'” Kolin said. “This job is built on passion, you have to be excited about what you do, you have to love what you do, and then that will transit to success.”

Wilbon’s appearance was last-minute.

“Mike Wilbon is very busy,” Song said. “I didn’t know until the night before that he was going to be in town and that he had a one-hour window where he could drive up to campus and speak to the cherubs. So we had to rearrange quite a bit to make room for it. But he’s so important to the program. He’s worth it.”

J.A. Adande, Northwestern’s director of sports journalism, talked about the impact of advanced technology on the industry. Adande graduated from Medill in 1992. He gave students advice on how to manage a social media account as a sports media professional.

“The news 10 years ago and how he reported was completely different than how he’s reporting now,” Sam Heller of New York City, New York said. “Social media, which is something I thought was just meant to talk to your friends, is being analyzed so closely.”

Julianna Yablans used the opportunity to talk to Adande, who graduated from her Los Angeles, California, high school, Crossroads.

“We talked about my school magazine, which used to be a newspaper, which he was the editor-in-chief of during his senior year, which is what I will be doing next year,” Yablans said. “He told me some stories about when he was in high school. We talked about what my newspaper used to be like and how it’s changed.”