Mike Wise, the former Washington Post sports columnist, ESPN writer and 106.7 The Fan radio host, is joining WUSA9 as a digital journalist and on-air contributor, the station announced on Friday.
Wise has long had a gift for engaging readers, both with his raw and award-winning profile writing and with his provocative opinions. So how long, he was asked, until he riles up WUSA9′s readers and viewers?
“I’m gonna try not to go for ratings and clicks,” he said in a phone conversation Friday morning. “I’m going to try to actually be forthright and honest and have convictions about everything, and not just jerk peoples’ chains."
“But I would say about two weeks.”
(Full disclosure: The author of this story is personal friends with Wise, and has likely written more words about Wise than about any non-athlete in Washington, with the possible exception of Racing Teddy Roosevelt.)
Wise served as a Post columnist for more than a decade before leaving for ESPN’s Undefeated vertical in January 2015. That site focuses on the intersection of sports, race and culture, although Wise also served as an occasional ESPN analyst on the NBA and other sports. He said on Friday that the choice to not include a comments section at the Undefeated, along with his transition to more national stories, left him on the outside of the local sports dialogue, after being a central character in that conversation for so many years. (He continued to live in Montgomery County, where he and his wife are raising three children.)
“In a weird way, you never really knew who you were writing for,” he said of his time at ESPN. “Really, I have to say the one thing I’ve missed about writing and talking about Washington sports is actually just being in that conversation every day. I think I took for granted being excoriated and just incinerated by readers” of the Post.
Wise, 54, left ESPN in April after his three-year contract ended. He will also serve as a contributor for Sports Illustrated, and is working on a biography of Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills. He will also launch a weekly podcast through the Pure Hoops Media network, which will be called “The Wise Ass Show.”
His role at WUSA remains slightly vague — “in a weird way, it’s kind of like an oyster,” he said — but he will likely engage in on-air conversations with WUSA sports director and anchor Darren Haynes, in addition to offering on-air commentaries and writing online pieces about sports and possibly broader local issues.
"Mike brings his own distinct perspective to sports here in Washington, and other important issues we face in our community,” PJ O’Keefe, the content director of WUSA9, said in a statement. “His ability to engage in conversations on culture, combined with his deep local roots, support our mission to inform and inspire, and to make a positive impact.”
From Wise’s standpoint, the station offers both a chance to reconnect with Washingtonians, and a deep history of sports anchors with larger aspirations than mere highlight packages, from Brett Haber to the legendary Glenn Brenner. Even at The Post, Wise was always intrigued by multimedia opportunities — “I’m a ham,” he admitted — and the flexibility of his WUSA9 arrangement will allow him to pursue national projects in addition to his local contributions.
Of course, this being Wise, he also had a different answer when asked why he had accepted this newest opportunity.
“Unemployment,” he said.
(That was a joke.)
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