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.