Monday, May 04, 2009

Memory of John Wilke

I just saw the news that John Wilke, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal died of cancer at age 54. I read about people dying every day, but rarely had I ever even met the person. I met John at the Microsoft antitrust trial 10 years ago (or so, 1998 to 2002.) I was a "semi-retired" independent software developer then and living in Washington, D.C. right at the time when the trial was getting underway. I attended the entire trial so I ended up meeting many of the reporters (and lawyers) at the long trial. Sometimes I would answer some of their technical questions, but mostly I enjoyed getting a front row seat watching news stories evolve from the ground up. It's amusing to read a story and then compare it to what I actually saw. Sometimes I would even go out drinking with a bunch of the reporters and lawyers after 8:00 p.m. when the reporters had filed their stories. On one occasion a reporter referred to me as their "mascot." That made me cringe, but that's better than other things that could have thought about me.

Although some (but not all) of the reporters were somewhat arrogant and full of themselves, John was always a nice guy around me. Professional and courteous.

One weekend there was a big storm in the DC area which knocked out the power in portions of the suburbs. I was eating dinner by myself at The Daily Grill restaurant on M Street and John walked over to my booth with his wife and daughter (about 7 or 8 years old?), said hello, and then proceeded to introduce me to his wife and daughter by saying "Jack is one of the reporters at the Microsoft trial." That just blew me away, but I barely managed to refrain from laughing. I wasn't sure whether to feel honored or insulted by being referred to as "a reporter." But, hey, at least John was being gracious and courteous and even acknowledging that I existed in one of the most brutal "power politics" cities in the world. He said that their power was out and they decided to come into the city for dinner. That's my last memory of John, other than as one of the reporters always madly scribbling notes and hounding the "poor" lawyers and witnesses for printable quotes.

His death does feel a bit strange to me since he was roughly the same age as me. Are we really getting that old?

-- Jack Krupansky


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