The following article was originally published in NOW Newspapers under the "State of Play" feature, a series of bi-weekly feature columns penned by WSN General Manager Travis Wilson.
It has been a rough few weeks for the sports journalism community, both nationally and right here in Wisconsin. At ESPN, a number of high-quality, respected journalists were let go, including Andy Katz, Ed Werder, Andrew Brandt, Chad Ford, Jayson Stark and many others. Just a week later, a number of prep sports reporters were let go in restructuring efforts at multiple newspapers.
It has been a difficult time for many in the business, though thankfully we at WisSports.net have been largely immune from the cuts that traditional media outlets have made to prep sports staff and coverage, as WSN continues to grow, in fact.
The recent staff layoffs in sports media have given me pause to reflect back on the people who have helped me along the way, whether by direct assistance or just providing a daily example of what covering high school athletics can and should be about.
My first foray into the media world came at WRCO radio in my hometown of Richland Center, where longtime voice of prep sports in the area Phil Nee allowed me to serve as the color analyst for Richland Center basketball games. It was a great experience, and served as a pre-cursor to the over-exposure I’ve made on the state’s radio airwaves on the WSN Minute, Football Friday Night, Wisconsin High School Football Weekly, and numerous guest interviews. Like many small town broadcasts, Phil, Ron Fruit, and the crew at WRCO are truly a community treasure, broadcasting hundreds of events each year for multiple schools, always supporting soccer, softball, and wrestling just as much as football and basketball. Coaches Associations, if you’re reading this, Phil should be in every one of your Halls of Fame.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this at all if not for the opportunity provided to me nearly nine years ago by Nicholas Kartos, the founder of WSN. It was a leap of faith on my part, but Nick’s guidance and vision for what WSN grew into cannot be emphasized enough. I’m bragging a bit as the current General Manager, but I truly believe WSN has been a transformative figure in high school sports in Wisconsin (for the better) and is a truly unique entity in the entire country, and Nick deserves the credit for that. I’ve been very honored to continue that work over the last several years, and look forward to many more.
I’ve been fortunate to work with great people at WSN, including Laura Ritchie, Norbert Durst, Rick Hamilton, Jay Messar and others, but I have especially admired the work of our boys basketball writer Mark Miller, a much-deserved WBCA Hall of Famer. An absolute legend in the Wisconsin basketball scene, his diligence, integrity, and commitment to make the focus on the athletes, teams, and coaches are second to none.
NOW Newspapers Sports Director JR Radcliffe and I are kindred spirits in many ways, and while there are many local reporters doing outstanding work around the state, I always feel JR’s style most aligns with what we do at WSN, which isn’t always the same as traditional newspapers. His knowledge of what happens outside his primary coverage area is outstanding (his “Reedsburg is a Madison suburb” thoughts notwithstanding), and his viewpoint on topics isn’t limited to just the area he covers. His use of new media and non-traditional formats have resulted in several significant awards. And, he hired me to write these ‘State of Play’ columns, so I’m contractually obligated to reference him at least once per year.
Hosting Football Friday Night, which started as a single-station postgame radio show in Madison and has since grown to be syndicated on nearly 25 stations around the state, has brought great pleasure over the years. IHeartMedia Madison program director Tim Scott has been the driving force behind it, and a huge supporter of WSN and high school athletics. Jimmie Kaska, Adam Eichstedt, Casey James, Brian Posick, and many others have been a part of its success over the years and joys to work with.
I grew up as an avid reader of the Wisconsin State Journal, and always envied the work done by Rob Hernandez and Dennis Semrau. Through my position at WSN, I’ve gotten to know both on a personal level, and while we’ve had our disagreements over the years, I consider both Rob and Dennis to be mentors in the field, and friends.
Likewise, I’ve gotten to know Milwaukee Journal Sentinel prep sports editor Mark Stewart very well at the various events around the state, as well as the partnership between the Journal Sentinel and WSN. He continues to be a great advocate for high school sports.
John Casper, Todd Sommerfeldt, Joe Ziemer, Justin Hull, Gregg Wavrunek, Wade Bates, and many others I’m, regrettably, forgetting or running out of space to mention have been supporters of WSN and outstanding to get to know over the years. I feel a bit like I’m at that point in an acceptance speech where you start to ramble and rattle off names, so I’ll heed the wrap-it-up music for now.
To Chuck Delsman, Andrew Pekarek, Steve Tietz, John Rech, Steve Clark and others who were let go recently: Thank you for promoting high school sports and best of luck on the next adventure.
For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)wissports.net.