Let's capture some of why we loved Wilke so much. As one friend of his put it:

"...write up an anecdote – some story where they watched Wilke build up into righteous anger when reporting a story... or ironing out a crease in the fabric of the Journal bureau... And someone should talk about him tearing up when he described taking his kid to college…..Or when he became nearly inconsolable when the anthrax story came back and cost him two fantastic seats at the Nats-Mets game. Describe a time he filled in for people, picked up their loads for them, counseled them, slipped them incredible sources, shared bylines... that will keep him alive and you (and the rest of us) afloat."

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Great eye

Many people justifiably point to Wilke's outstanding coverage of the Microsoft antitrust trial. But some of his most ground-breaking reporting came during the months leading up to the trial, when he masterfully extracted information from both government and corporate sources to pen some great scoops that skewered Microsoft and illuminated issues that would later become hugely important during the trial.

Here's one of his classic ledes from the period:

"In Silicon Valley, big deals often get done over the cinnamon-blueberry coffee cake at Hobee's, near Apple Computer Inc.'s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. But the cafe may also be remembered for a deal that didn't get done: what antitrust investigators allege was an illegal attempt by Microsoft Corp. to kill competition in an emerging technology."

This was about a technology called QuickTime that most of us regard as a rather boring piece of plumbing, and certainly not something that would make or break Apple. Yet in the hands of Wilke, that episode and a separate "divide-the market" meeting with Netscape became what he wrote were likely to be "the most dramatic and hard-fought charges at the historic trial scheduled to begin next week. "

We in the San Francisco bureau who were Wilke's collaborators on many of the stories were always very glad he was on our side. On the other hand, if Wilke had a tendency to hide the ball from editors, it must be noted that he often applied that technique just as skillfully from folks like us that might have a tendency to grab a byline--or, at a minimum, feel some responsibility to provide more information about our story plans to companies we had to talk to every day about other matters. There were many times when, with a half hour or so to go before deadline, we would have to quickly ask Microsoft for their explanation about some very inflammatory accusations. Considerable hard feelings would ensue, some of which were directed as much at us as at Wilke.

But as the months wore on, I believe even the Microsoft lawyers and flack-catchers came to revere Wilke's skill, doggedness, and eagerness to have a convivial drink with the same people he would be slamming in the next day's paper.

For me personally, still regularly pulled into antitrust stories, Wilke's generosity, knowledge of the law, and his great eye for a sexy story and how to tell it will always be remembered with enormous gratitude.

Don Clark

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