WSCR morning host Mike Mulligan has been on the Chicago sports media scene since his days answering phones at the Sun-Times in 1982. Legendary High School sports editor Taylor Bell trained Mulligan as both a reporter and a writer and assigned him his first story.
A former paperboy who delivered the Sun-Times and Tribune in the morning and the Daily News and Chicago Today in the afternoon, Mulligan worked every job imaginable in the Sun-Times Sports department. Eventually, he became the full-time beat writer covering the Chicago Bulls during their first three championships with Michael Jordan.
Mulligan moved to the Bears beat and eventually became the NFL columnist a few years later. He still covers football for the Chicago Tribune. Mulligan’s radio stops have included stints at Sporting News Radio, ESPN and, of course, WSCR-670 The Score where he has teamed with fellow sportswriter Brian Hanley since 2005.
An award-winning journalist who has covered six NBA Finals, 16 Super Bowls and one World Cup Final, he also received a local Emmy for his television commentary on Fox Kickoff Sunday and worked the final season as a panelist on the legendary “Sportswriters on TV,’’ show. (CBS Chicago)
You can follow the Mully and Hanley show on Twitter here.
PAUL M. BANKS: So how did you get into this business? What was your big break?
MIKE MULLIGAN: I started at the Sun-Times when I was a freshman in college at Loyola. I worked under Taylor Bell. My junior year Simeon was playing Farragut, and a kid named Benji Wilson was the star player on that team which went on to win the state title. And that was the only game they lost; it was at Farragut, and a big fight broke out. But the game wasn’t actually completed because of the fight. But as a result of covering that story, I think I made an impact with Taylor and it kind of kept me it the mix even though I was studying abroad in Rome. I worked my senior year, and then after I graduated too. And I just kept working there until 2011.
PAUL M. BANKS: Who are your biggest influences in media?
MIKE MULLIGAN: Hugh McIlvanney, a writer in England, he was just fantastic. Simon Barnes, we’ve actually had Simon on our radio show, he’s a sportswriter for the Times of London. People like Frank Deford or Rick Telander, who do great writing. That’s what interests me. I really like the element of writing. I enjoy reading a lot of peope in the city, like David Haugh, I enjoy his take on things.
Rick Morrissey does a very good job. There’s a lot of people. I’m still a guy who reads the newspaper. I like to get both papers everyday. Then I like to get USA Today and see how the stories are being played in various places. I get the New York Times on the weekend.
PAUL M. BANKS: What is your field of expertise? What are you best known as?
MIKE MULLIGAN: As a sportswriter, but probably a NFL guy first. Bears might be my identity, but it shifts and changes. During the football season I still write, but it’s changed significantly, I’ve really undergone a career transformation at a good time for me, and both me and my partner are grateful we’ve been able to make that transition, given the state of the newspaper business.
But it’s still a lot of fun to still have a hand in, and go up for the mini-camp stuff, and the draft. It’s really weird, I did this thing at Northwestern recently, and somebody asked why did you become a sportswriter? Now I love sports and I played sports, but I really wanted to be a writer. While trying to become a writer, I became a sports writer. It’s all kind of connected. A lot of what we do with our show is content oriented and it comes from the fact that both of us are long time sports writers.
There’s a great spirit of camaraderie in the business, or they’re used to be. And I still enjoy those relationships when I’m out covering the beat.
PAUL M. BANKS: Finally, where do you think sports media is headed?
MIKE MULLIGAN: It’s going in a lot of different directions. Now with the breaking news element, I think Twitter is an incredible resource. It is absolutely fantastic. When there’s a breaking story or an event, you can get a lot of material, and instant reaction from so many sources. And there’s so many firewalls now with different newspapers, so when people are tweeting out their story, you can read it right away, you don't have to go some place or pay something.
It’s instantaneous and sometimes that’s frustrating, some times there's a story you have to chase that you don't want to chase. You know it's false, but you got to make a couple phone calls. Social media has changed the business so much. You’re walking around with one of these devices in your pocket where you can look up anything, you can check what’s happening in the now. But if you’re writing, you can look up something immediately. When I first started in this business, you had to go into the library to look something up, you really didn’t have the internet.
It’s amazing the changes we’ve seen in our lifetime, and the changes our kids are going to see in their lifetime. I think it’s incredible. I like it.
Newspapers in particular, we gave away our content and we don’t know what to do with it or how to sell it, and I think that’s been a problem. I worry for the future of a newspaper, because there’s great value in a newspaper. And I’m an addict for a newspaper. If I go to a city that has multiple newspapers, I’m constantly buying as many as possible. It’s one of the fun things to do. And I don’t know how long it’s going to last.
I’m hopeful, but I don’t know how the business plan is going to work out. I’d hate to see people lose their jobs and have to reinvent themselves. At this age, it’s very difficult to do.
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