SBD/Issue 35/Sports Media

First Time, Long Time With WJFK-FM's Mike Wise

Wise Says Not Many People Calling
In About Post's Coverage Of Redskins
Most journalists do not want to become part of the story, but sometimes they are forced to. When WJFK-FM personality and Washington Post columnist Mike Wise had Redskins COO David Donovan on his radio show this Tuesday, he was thrust into a debate about the Post's coverage of the Redskins and the team's increasingly controversial policies. Staff writer Preston Bounds spoke to Wise this week to discuss the team's relationship with fans and the media.

Q: How much have callers focused on the recent feud between the Washington Post and the Redskins? Are listeners following it?

Wise: It's pretty miniscule, the number of people who actually call in and say, "The Post should be more positive," or "The Post needs to get after these guys." The whole time Donovan was talking, I didn't want to steer him away from it, because I wanted to give him his say. But at some point, I just thought to myself, "Does anybody out there really care that the Redskins believe the Washington Post is really at the head of this conspiracy?" I threw out a question once to listeners asking if the media was part of why the Redskins are doing so badly. And out of 20 calls we took, maybe one mentioned that we have it out for the team, and I'm not sure that one was a legit caller.

Q: Roughly what percentage of listeners calling in to your show make direct reference to Redskins Owner Dan Snyder and Exec VP/Football Operations Vinny Cerrato when discussing the team's problems?

Wise: Vinny and Dan have become the universal punching bags on the station. And frankly, I don't like that. Because one, I don't like personal attacks. But the main reason I don't like it is it kind of promotes the idea that this is where you can air your grievances about the team, and it turns into whiny radio. It's just become a cliché at this point to use Dan as a punching bag.

Q: How do listeners feel about the Redskins' shift in policy regarding signs at games? Do they buy any of the explanations offered by the team?

Wise: We didn't know this until after the Donovan interview, but the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg told me he's gotten tons of e-mails and pictures of signs, and the team actually passed out Geico signs Monday to fans. After the Donovan interview, we took reaction calls, and a woman named Catherine Kidwell called and said on Monday, a field security person took a sign from her about her son that read, "Sgt. Kidwell, No. 1 Redskins Fan. God Watch Over You In Iraq. We Love You." At the end of the call, she was almost crying.

Q: How do the different pro sport organizations in DC handle the media? Are other teams as confrontational as the Redskins have been of late?

Wise: It's a weird thing, because Redskins Exec VP/Communications Zack Bolno doesn't have that bent about him at all. For me to say that the Redskins deal with the media awfully is not fair -- their players are available, they put you together with people who are interested in talking to you. But the problem is, the people who don't talk are at the top of the organization. The Wizards are great. The Capitals are above and beyond. They're No. 1 in terms of dealing with the media, and that's a reflection of their owner.

Q: Could the Redskins ever turn off enough fans that they would no longer be the most-cared-about team in town?

Wise: No, it’s always going to be a Redskins town. The Wizards and Caps could make tremendous inroads if they won a championship. But when you talk to the people in and around DC about those 12 years when their burgundy and gold won three Lombardi trophies, they sound like they're talking about their grandfather taking them to an ice cream shop and paying 25 cents for a double-scoop. Sometimes, I want to blame the fans. They're the enablers.

Hear podcasts of WJFK-FM's "The Mike Wise Show," which airs weekdays from 10:00am-2:00pm ET. "The Mike Wise Show" airs weekdays on WJFK-FM from 10:00am-2:00pm ET.

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