Tag Archives: sports journalism

Winning Lacy-Smith Award ‘Puts Me In The Company Of My Idols,’ Michael Wilbon Says

Left to right: George Solomon, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. (Photo: Steven Dilsizian)

Left to right: George Solomon, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. (Photo: Steven Dilsizian)

By Steven Dilsizian
For The Povich Center
May 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — Michael Wilbon, a sportswriter and co-host of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” was filled with emotion after becoming the fourth winner of the Sam Lacy-Wendell Smith Award at a luncheon Sunday at Nationals Park in Washington.

“Overwhelming. It’s overwhelming to me,” Wilbon said of winning the award.

Many of Wilbon’s family members, colleagues, and friends gathered at the stadium to watch the longtime sports columnist graciously accept an award named after the two late African American journalists who were Wilbon’s role models.

“It puts me in the company of my idols,” Wilbon said. “These guys [Lacy and Smith] didn’t want to hear about what couldn’t be done … they helped integrate baseball.”

The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism presents the Lacy-Smith Award annually to a journalist who utilizes their platform to focus on improving racial and gender equality in sports. Throughout his career, Wilbon has never shied from shedding light on inequalities in sports and improving the social discourse.

While Wilbon has won numerous other awards, this one, he said, was different.

“I’m proud of other awards I’ve gotten, but when you are put in a certain company, your behavior ought to be scrutinized,” Wilbon said. “Does he live up to the bar that they [Lacy and Smith] set? The accountability that is involved is overwhelming.”

Lacy and Smith were pioneers in the sports journalism field. Lacy was the first African American accepted into the Baseball Writers Association of America, while Smith was writing for a major daily newspaper during a time when African Americans rarely had such opportunities. Both Lacy and Smith were recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors with the Red Smith Award for their distinguished careers in sports journalism.

Lacy and Smith were able to make strides during their time in the field of sports journalism and spent their entire careers campaigning for racial equality in sports, including pushing for years for the integration of Major League Baseball and covering Jackie Robinson’s first year in the major leagues in 1947.

Wilbon, who has worked in sports journalism for almost 40 years, said there are still societal changes that need to be made.

“I think there are some tough times on the horizon because we now have a world in which exclusion is becoming trendy,” Wilbon explained.

Wilbon grew up in Chicago and attended Northwestern University. He had two summer internships at The Washington Post before being hired full-time in 1980. He currently works for ESPN and ABC — he co-hosts “Pardon the Interruption,” covers the NBA and writes columns for The Undefeated.

His longtime colleague at The Post and ESPN, Tony Kornheiser, presented the award to Wilbon.

“If you’re quicker, if you’re sharper, if you’re smarter … you’re going to get the job, that’s how it works,” Kornheiser said. “That leads me to presenting this award to my friend Mike Wilbon of almost 40 years now, who’s quicker and smarter and sharper than the other guy.”

Kevin Blackistone, a sports columnist at The Post and Merrill College professor, has known Wilbon since 1977, when they tattended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

“Mike deserves [the award] because like Smith and Lacy, he’s very much been a pioneer in terms of the way we cover sports and the way we think about sports,” Blackistone said. “He’s not afraid to talk about the importance of race and sports.”

Blackistone also spoke at the luncheon, as did Lynn and David Povich, children of the late Shirley Povich; Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of Merrill College; Jackie Lewis, vice president for university relations for the University of Maryland; and Damion Thomas, curator of sports at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Another one of Wilbon’s Northwestern classmates, USA TODAY sports columnist Christine Brennan, said Wilbon is more than deserving of the award.

“To see this today, this is a culmination of everything that Mike lives and breathes,” Brennan said. “For him, this has never been a job.”

It was difficult for Brennan to distill Wilbon and his accomplishments into one word, but she described her friend and colleague as simply “spectacular.”

Wilbon joins Claire Smith, James Brown and William Rhoden as a winner of the Lacy-Smith Award. Wilbon has a simple message to the future winners: “We have a responsibility to live up to the behavior, the conduct, the passion, the intellect, the ability to discern … we have to live up to the bar [Lacy and Smith] set.”

“Michael Wilbon is cut from the same mold as Sam Lacy and Wendell Smith,” said George Solomon, director of the Povich Center. “They spoke up for what they perceived was right for sports and the country. So does Mike Wilbon.”

Merrill College, Povich Center Panel Tackles Social Media, Sports Journalism

Povich Center Director George Solomon introduces the panel at Bleacher Report. (Photo by Mason Levinson)

Povich Center Director George Solomon introduces the panel at Bleacher Report. (Photo by Mason Levinson)

COLLEGE PARK (3/12/18) — Athletes’ ability to communicate directly with fans through social media hasn’t made sports journalism obsolete — but it has dramatically changed the way journalists do their jobs.

That was the message delivered last week by a panel convened by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and hosted by the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism and University of Maryland Alumni Association at Bleacher Report headquarters in New York.

“It’s an area that’s increasingly important in the journalistic coverage of sports,” Povich Center Director George Solomon said. “The panelists, and moderator Kevin Blackistone, did a great job conveying its importance.”

The panelists — Jermaine Spradley, executive editor at Bleacher Report; Frank Isola (’87), sportswriter at New York Daily News; Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief at ESPN’s The Undefeated; Tina Cervasio (’96), lead sports anchor at Fox5 NY; Rachel McNair (M.J. ’16), broadcast associate for CBS Sports; Drew Rauso (’14), creative producer for The Players’ Tribune; and Brittany Cheng (’16), social media producer for SB Nation — spoke before a gathering of about 100 University of Maryland alumni.

The discussion was preceded by a reception sponsored by three Maryland companies: Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Sagamore Spirit in Baltimore and Big Cork Vineyards in Rohrersville

Several alumni helped plan the event. Rosemary Ostmann (’93), president and CEO of RoseComm, secured the sponsors and helped shape the panel’s topic and select participants with Josh Fendrick (’13), the senior manager of branded content at Bleacher Report. Fendrick then helped execute the plan and offered his company’s new headquarters as the evening’s venue.

“Whenever we have an event in New York, our alumni line up in excitement and offer their workplaces,” Dean Lucy A. Dalglish said. “They work in really interesting newsroom environments and are eager to show them off.”

Fendrick said he’s “proud to be a part of the Maryland journalism family” and was excited to show off his workplace while hosting the evening’s discussion.

“Everyone I talked to was excited with the panelists we had,” Fendrick said. “It was a really good mix of established veterans and people in the journalism industry.”

He said those in attendance appreciated learning about the changing role of journalists.

“Social media hasn’t eliminated journalists,” he said. “It’s just given them another thing to report on.”

Ostmann echoed that. She said it’s important that the college be a leader in these conversations because it’s training the next generation of journalists.

“To have a really honest dialogue around these direct channels and what it all means is very important now,” Ostmann said. “I felt like a lot of tough questions were being asked, and people were being challenged.

“I think we’re only going to ensure the sustainability of the industry if we ask these questions and work together to answer them.”

She was also grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni — more than 200 miles north of campus.

“For me as an alum, these events have been a great reminder of the impressive people coming through the Philip Merrill College of Journalism,” Ostmann said. “To have the opportunity to connect with such a diverse group has been great.”

Dalglish encouraged other New York-area alumni to get in touch for future events.

“If you work in a really cool place and you want to show it off, host us next year,” she said.

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles

SI’s Peter King Opines on NFL, Offers Advice to Merrill College Students

Peter King speaks with students at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Peter King speaks with students at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

By Adam Zielonka
For the Povich Center

Longtime Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King filed his Wednesday article about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

It delayed King’s speaking engagement for the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism by about 15 minutes, but as Povich Center director George Solomon said, “at least we’re late for a journalistic reason.”

King was the Povich Center’s guest speaker Wednesday afternoon at the Eaton Theater in Knight Hall. The MMQB founder addressed a variety of topics about America’s true pastime and the sport he has covered the most during his 37-year journalism career.

King and Solomon were joined on the panel by Callie Caplan, a 2017 Merrill College graduate who covers high school sports for The Washington Post, and Jake Brodsky, a Merrill College senior and editor for The Left Bench.

Perhaps the strongest opinion King delivered during the panel had to do with football’s violent nature and the increasing issues around player safety. King thinks it’s in the NFL’s best interest for players to wait until they are 16 years old to play tackle football.

“I believe the NFL should come out right now and institute an edict that basically says that we do not support tackle football before a person’s 16th birthday,” he said.

When Solomon noted Bob Costas’ comment at November’s Povich Symposium that “this game destroys people’s brains,” which made national headlines, King asked, “How do you argue with him? You can’t argue.”

Caplan first brought up player safety when she asked King how much the Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals this week hurt the league’s stance on safety.

Players on both teams were injured in that — two players received suspensions for illegal hits and Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was carted off with a back injury.

“What really hurts [the league] in my opinion is Ben Roethlisberger saying to [ESPN reporter] Lisa Salters, ‘This is AFC North football,’” King said. “Well, then the AFC North should secede from the union. That was a disgrace.”

Left to right: Povich Center Director George Solomon, Sports Illustrated MMQB editor Peter King, Merrill College senior Jake Brodsky and Merrill College graduate Callie Caplan.

Left to right: Povich Center Director George Solomon, Sports Illustrated MMQB editor Peter King, Merrill College senior Jake Brodsky and Merrill College graduate Callie Caplan.

King also discussed his reporting about Goodell’s contract extension. Several weeks ago, when it was reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was organizing formal opposition to Goodell receiving an extension, King got in contact with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the chairman of the owners’ compensation committee.

Blank told King there really wasn’t as much organized opposition as Jones made it sound.

“The one kind of journalism lesson for this is every time I ended up talking to Arthur Blank I said ‘Hey, we need to keep in touch about this,’” King said.

King also was cognizant of his role as one of a handful of respected football reporters working for national publications.

“This will happen to you. It’s a great example of about how, in my opinion, owners and big influencers are going to try to use people at the highest parts of their profession,” King said. “It’s a very, very interesting kind of dance when you try to figure out, after every conversation, ‘what is this person actually trying to do with me, and how much of what I was just told do I trust implicitly and how much do I have to check out?’”

King has worked for Sports Illustrated since 1989, but in 2013 the magazine gave him a budget to launch his own football-only vertical website, the MMQB. King wanted to hire “people who were extremely young and did not think like I thought,” and one of his first hires was Merrill College graduate Robert Klemko.

Klemko worked for USA Today and was covering the Baltimore Ravens on their path to winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. After one playoff game, King saw Ray Lewis get “nose to nose” with Klemko for pursuing a line of questioning Lewis didn’t like, having to do with the linebacker’s 2000 murder trial. Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in that case.

The way Klemko “hung in there” stood out to King, who soon hired him for his MMQB staff.

“There had to be a couple of PR guys who had to separate them,” King remembered. “And I just said, ‘I’m impressed with him.’”

King likes working with writers with different visions and who aren’t afraid to disagree with him, he said, because he is “not the god of editing or the god of journalism.”

“We’re not going to do what’s best for somebody’s ego,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for the story.”

King also discussed his opinions on everything from Colin Kaepernick’s lack of an NFL job to the possibility of a lockout or strike at the league’s next collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Football likely will go on “uninterrupted,” King said, partly because players might not want to lose a year of their careers to strike.

King bookended the football talk with two key pieces of advice for budding journalists. In his opening comments, he advised young reporters to “do everything,” to be more flexible than he said he was upon graduating from Ohio University in 1979.

“There was a dividing line between radio and TV people and the newspaper people,” he said. “Now when I talk to students, the one thing I say is ‘do everything, because you never know.’”

And King closed the event by recalling how he never worried about money in the early stages of his career, advising journalists to do the same.

As a general assignment sports reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the 1980s, “I covered Xavier basketball. I was the backup guy on the Reds. I covered a high school football game every night in the fall,” King said. “I covered whatever came up, whatever needed to be covered.

“I just thought ‘man, this is incredible. They’re paying me $13,000 a year to do this? This is awesome, man.’”

Women on The Washington Post’s Sports Beats Visit Knight Hall



Award Winners Honored at Povich Luncheon

Left to right: Povich Center assistant director Beth Mechum, Merrill student Megan Smedley and Povich Center director George Solomon at the Povich awards luncheon.

Left to right: Povich Center assistant director Beth Mechum, Merrill student Megan Smedley and Povich Center director George Solomon at the Povich awards luncheon.

Philip Merrill College of Journalism alumni, students, faculty and mentors were honored during the Shirley Povich awards luncheon this week at the University of Maryland.

The awards were presented by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at Merrill College. George Solomon, the center’s director, and assistant director Beth Mechum presented the awards before the 12th annual Shirley Povich Symposium.

The award recipients were:

  • Mentor of the Year: Garry D. Howard, director of corporate initiatives at American City Business Journals. Introduced by Marty Kaiser, former editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Distinguished Terrapin: Bob Ford (’76), sports columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Introduced by Ike Richman (’88), founder of Ike Richman Communications
  • Distinguished Terrapin: Heather McDonough (’04), senior sports producer at NBC4. Introduced by Sue Kopen Katcef (’76), Capital News Service broadcast bureau director and senior lecturer at Merrill College
  • All-Star Student: Megan Smedley, introduced by Sue Kopen Katcef
  • All-Star Student: Alex Flum, introduced by Alison Burns (’93), Ph.D. student and adjunct lecturer at Merrill College
  • Special Recognition: Carl Sessions Stepp, Merrill College faculty
  • Special Recognition: Olive Reid, Merrill College associate dean for student affairs
  • Special Recognition: Kevin Anderson, University of Maryland director of athletics, introduced by Gary Williams