By Nick Kariuki (MSJ15)

WASHINGTON – Be great at what you do and do what you love: These were the two takeaways that Michael Wilbon gave Medill students who visited the set of Pardon the Interruption last summer.

In a welcome break from Medill’s D.C. newsroom, we got the chance to sit in on the afternoon taping of the sports television show and interact with the crew and hosts during and after filming.

For that day’s show, Wilbon and cohost Tony Kornheiser bounced seamlessly across topics such as Sepp Blatter’s resignation, LeBron James’ chances in the NBA Finals and Adrian Peterson’s first practice back with the Minnesota Vikings, sparring playfully throughout.

In the tongue-in-cheek role playing segment, Kornheiser played J.R. (Just Recognize) Smith and imagined how Triple-Crown contender American Pharaoh, who “put the freakness in the Preakness,” would much rather be the horse in commercials alongside supermodel Hannah Davis.

The visit also provided an opportunity to see that everyone in the room was clearly enjoying what they were doing. I never really noticed the crew’s laughter watching PTI on TV and was relieved to not be the only one blurting out at the jokes.

The playful mood was matched by a high level of professionalism as the anchors were aided by a small and engaged crew. There were no second takes. The topics seemed well researched, and where there was any doubt, verification was sought and quickly provided. Whether it was how much money NBA coaches take home or how many World Cups Mia Hamm won, both hosts went into each take confident in their facts.

Wilbon took the time to speak with us before he had to jet off for the NBA Finals and gave his tips on succeeding in the industry.

Rather than being focused on swiftly rising in pay grades, Wilbon said it’s better in the long term to stay in one place long enough to focus on improving your skills. He recalled how he quickly surpassed those whose work path was the former as their paychecks eventually plateaued to reflect their abilities.

He stressed that loving the work you’re doing, no matter where you are, helps that journey to greatness go smoothly.

Wilbon also put a strong emphasis on keeping connected with — and utilizing — the Medill network.

The visit will definitely be a cherished memory and was an encouraging view of just how far the skills and values learned at Medill can take someone.


Nick Kariuki specializes in soccer coverage. He also covers sports’ impact on business, culture, and society and vice versa. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and has lived and worked in the U.S., Nairobi, Shanghai and Johannesburg.