Wilbon on Post-PTI Dual Back-Scratching

A pretty interesting exchange took place on yesterday’s washingtonpost.com chat with Michael Wilbon:

    Washington, D.C.: Michael

    Do you think your PTI work helps or hinders your work as a columnist? It seems to me the program allows you access to many many sources you wouldn’t meet otherwise, but also takes up a good deal of time, making it more difficult to write the sorts of things Boswell often does–loaded with statistical comparison. Post is lucky to have you both, but just wondered about your take on this.

    Michael Wilbon: That’s a damn insightful question and thank you for posing it. The access is phenomenal. It opens doors, plain and simply, than are not easily opened by a person who exclusively writes a newspaper column. The Washington Post, as an i.d., opens as many doors as any newspaper…but young athletes don’t read newspapers. Most have no idea I write a column. I’m not talking about Peyton Manning or even Byron Leftwich, who grew up here…but I’m talking in the main, youngsters don’t read newspapers. And what if you don’t live in or around Washington, D.C.? Phil knows me because of PTI, and he’s been wonderful to me with information and insight…and there are dozens of examples…As for writing the column…Boz and I don’t write the same kind of column. We just don’t. There’s nobody as good as Boz as doing the statistical analysis, which is why Total Average is his baby. That’s not what I do, however. My columns are much more issue-oriented and I need access to discussion, the back-and-forth and give-and-take that I get from access to people who love the same sorts of things, whether we’re talking about commissioners of leagues or coaches or GMs or older players. The preparation for PTI is also preparation for writing the column…I’m going to write about the Ryder Cup and Tiger for Tuesday’s Post…so diving into more golf-related information, whether through a phone call or conversations I had yesterday in Chicago…the column ought to be better than it would have been without the access afforded by doing PTI.

    Arlington, Va.: Following up on your answer to the question about whether your PTI job helps/hinders your ability to write a column — have you ever been tempted, or have you ever actually, softened criticism in a column in order to avoid irritating a person that you were trying to attract as a guest on PTI? Are you concerned about the possibility of that happening and perceptions of your readers that that might happen?

    Michael Wilbon: Another great question…I hope not. Phil has been one of the best guest we’ve ever had and we’ve had him several times…And I like Phil tremendously…but I had to be critical of him, as recently as today. And I just have to do it. Might I temper a comment? I hope I don’t pull the punch…Are any of us as vicious when writing about somebody we like as opposed to somebody we don’t? No. That’s human nature. But to leave out deserved criticism purposely because a news figure might see it and bail on PTI…that just can’t happen and I would never, ever knowingly do it. But it is fair to ask and for me and Tony to wonder if we lighten the criticism subconsciously…