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Medill alumnus Peter Schoenke (MSJ93) inducted into 2 fantasy sports halls of fame

Peter Schoenke, a Medill alumnus and founder of RotoWire.com, was inducted into the Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame in January. This achievement followed his 2011 induction into the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Hall of Fame.

“It’s really great to get praise from your fellow colleagues and to think that you’ve made a difference in your field,” Schoenke said.

The Fantasy Sports Trade Association represents more than 100 companies in the fantasy sports industry. Since its establishment in 2000, only 13 people have been induced into the association’s hall of fame, which recognizes those who have contributed substantially to the fantasy sports industry.

The Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame was inaugurated just last year to acknowledge the accomplishments of fantasy sports publishers, editors and writers. In order to be eligible for consideration, candidates must have served in the fantasy sports editorial field for at least 10 years.

Schoenke is one of only three people in both halls of fame.

Schoenke founded RotoNews.com (now RotoWire.com) in 1997 after his experience as a financial reporter for Dow Jones led him to the idea. On the trading floor, terminals gave traders instant access to news and information. An avid sports fan, Schoenke replicated that concept for fantasy baseball.

RotoNews.com gave fans immediate access to player notes – which the company invented – or bits of information citing each time a player was benched, injured, traded or involved in a news event affecting his fantasy value. Within two years, the site became one of the top ten most visited sites on the Internet.

RotoWire.com, the largest independently owned fantasy sports website, is now a premiere destination for sports enthusiasts and content provider for major media outlets including ESPN.com, YahooSport.com, FoxSports and NFL.com.

A self-professed “sports geek,” Schoenke became interested in fantasy sports as a junior high school student, but he couldn’t find anybody to play with. It wasn’t until he entered college that he started his first fantasy sports league. Two of the members of that league, Northwestern alumni Herb Ilk and Jeff Erickson, are now Schoenke’s business partners.

“That original league is still going strong,” Schoenke said, adding that it’s entering its 23rd year in operation.

When the league started, Schoenke was a one-man statistics show. He collected all of the numbers himself, spending eight hours every two weeks entering data into an Excel spreadsheet. He mailed the information to members who were out of town.

Today, Schoenke’s company sends fantasy sports fans their information via text message, in addition to providing access online and through a number of mobile apps.

Schoenke believes that his experience at Medill and his background in journalism helped him get where he is today.

“One of the reasons that RotoNews and RotoWire have been successful is because we took a lot of what I learned working at a newswire and made that the foundation,” Schoenke said. “It gave us a competitive edge when others in fantasy sports didn’t have the same journalism background.”