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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Wilke's Impact

In 1997, I called Wilke – whom I did not know -- to suggest he write a story about an old man named Zebulon Lee who owned a community-oriented radio station in Asheville that was being rolled in a media consolidation war. I had written something about it in a trade mag where I worked, but I thought Zeb Lee’s life deserved bigger play and a reporter at a bigger paper

I saw Wilke’s byline on a technology story, and phoned him.

He listened, and as I was explaining that the convoluted story also involved a politician and millions of dollars, Wilke interrupted me: “You mean it’s all about injustice and money. Why didn’t you just say so? I LOVE those things.”

A month later, Wilke produced a front page story on Zeb Lee, beloved of Asheville, and the final, sad hours of WZLS’s last broadcast. “Mixed Signals: A Rock `n' Roll Station Is Pushed Off the Air In Bureaucratic Morass --- North Carolina's WZLS-FM Loses an FCC Battle It Thought It Had Won --- No More Lost-Pig Reports”

The Zeb Lee story didn’t put anyone in jail or lead to new laws, and, to Wilke’s never-ending annoyance, it didn’t save the station. But after Lee died, one of his sons told me that because of the national attention to Wilke’s story, his dad “died in dignity.” Wilke didn’t change the world, just little parts of it.

Alicia Mundy

1 comment:

  1. Dear Alicia,
    I admit to using way too many tissues as I've read the heartfelt memories posted here for John but the zinger in that last 'graph' (as John would call it) of yours forced me to grab another handful. It was so well written. Thank you. John would've really liked it.