Meet Cari Champion of Tennis Channel on Approach Shots

Meet award winning broadcast journalist, television personality, current anchor and courtside reporter for Tennis Channel – Cari Champion.

Champion has worked across the country covering network news, entertainment and sports stories of national interest for ABC, CBS, NBC, and other cable networks.

A native of Southern California, Champion graduated from UCLA and moved to Florida for her first reporting job.

While working in Florida, she covered the Williams sisters superstar status in tennis. And as a local news reporter Champion quickly created a name for herself which allowed her to cover more nationally televised events – from Florida’s hurricanes to the high profile ‘dog fighting’ case of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick.

GVTN caught up with Champion to pose a few questions about her career and working at Tennis Channel.

GVTN: How did your career path take you to Tennis Channel?

Cari Champion: After graduating college I began working as a local reporter in a small market. As a local reporter, I would cover anything newsworthy from sports to entertainment. I worked in West Virginia, Florida and Atlanta. When I moved back to Los Angeles, my agent told me about a job at the Tennis Channel. It was a natural fit, they wanted a journalist who covered sports.  The timing was right and I was excited about working for the channel.

GVTN: You’ve covered other sports and have worked in news, how does covering tennis compare? What are the unique challenges involved? What are perks?

CC: Tennis is very different from any other sport I have covered. The fans are experts—many have played or still play tennis—and they can quickly identify and outsider.  Which means, as a journalist you must learn the sport and actively participate in the tennis community.  I really enjoy that aspect of covering the sport. Basketball or football does not give you that intimate experience at all times. Traveling is the most challenging and the perk of covering the sport. Challenging because you need to learn or adapt to a new community or country quickly but it’s also a perk, there are very few sports that my colleagues cover that will allow them to see the world.

GVTN: You’re in the studio doing Court Report and you seem to be always on the road, what have been your favorite tournaments, moments and /or events you’ve covered since joining Tennis Channel?

CC: To be honest, I enjoy working in the studio and sideline reporting. However, the French Open has been one of two highlights so far. During that Slam I was able to work with so many tennis legends and broadcast pioneers like Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport and Bill Macatee.

In studio: interviewing Andre Agassi about his autobiography “Open” was not only a highlight at Tennis Channel but for my career. That interview changed my perspective on how I view him and the world of sports

GVTN: You are active on twitter. What role do you think twitter plays in the tennis world?

CC: Twitter makes it so much easier to get and receive information. I live on Twitter when I’m covering events or tournaments. Many times, a player or coach or reporter will update their twitter and Ill have the information right away. And while its necessary to always fact check before you run with ANYTHING, it helps in the fact gathering process.
That’s invaluable when I need to interview someone or if I know I need to research the information that has been published on the site.

GVTN: What would you like people to know about you?

CC: I’m a die hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. I grew up in a Laker family and if I tried to like any other team in the league they would disown me.

I love tennis, I play it well enough but I’m also taking lessons—slow and steady will win the race.

Hot yoga is the way!

From “Court Report” to covering the “Slams” watch Cari Champion on Tennis Channel. Follow her on twitter @CariChampion and on her website www.carichampion.com.


USA TODAY Golf and Tennis Editor Joe Fleming on Approach Shots

Journalism veteran and current USA TODAY golf and tennis editor Joe Fleming took a few questions on how his periodical approaches the coverage of tennis.

Global Village Tennis News: As both the golf and tennis editor of USA TODAY what are the unique challenges in covering each sport?

Joe Fleming: Frankly, tennis is the greater challenge for me because USA TODAY does not have a dedicated tennis writer on staff. I write when I can, and I have a contract writer, Douglas Robson, who covers the Slams for us. And we use Doug for all sorts of features/news stories as they come up. Tennis also is so global, spread all around the world, and the players hail from so many places. Golf is global, too, of course, but our main focus is on the U.S.-based PGA Tour. The other issue for me is the prominence of the Slam events, which so overwhelms the regular tour events. It’s hard to draw attention to what’s going on in tennis outside the Slams. Golf has that problem, too, but it is less of a factor: The PGA Tour is on network TV every weekend from January through September.

GVTN: Which sport is more “media” friendly and why?

JF: Both have their strengths … and weaknesses. I love tennis’ mix of fabulous personalities … there’s no Petkorazzi in golf. And I personally love the fact that they come from so many places. And I give the nod to tennis’ athletes in terms of their connection with fans, their embrace of new media. Some golfers have bought in, of course, but I find golfers overall a bit more reserved. (Some of this is no doubt a function of age.) I think tennis also has an advantage with its female stars, who occupy the same level as the men. Not so in golf. As in all sports, tennis’ big stars can be hard to get to. Golf does have one huge star (Tiger Woods), and he’s American … USA TODAY does try to focus on Americans (the home team, if you will). Tennis’ huge stars don’t move the needle in the USA the way Woods does. But, as mentioned above, golf has a steady, reliable presence on networks TV in the USA. Tennis does not.

GVTN: Does USA TODAY have any sort of “philosophy” in its coverage of tennis?

JF: First, for many reasons, we place our emphasis, effort — and money — on coverage of the Grand Slams. The vast majority of our yearly budget goes into the four majors, and particularly Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Second, we try to concentrate on American players. Again, for USA TODAY (we call ourselves The Nation’s Newspaper, after all) they are the home team. That means focusing on Americans at the Slams … and, in what has become an annual story, really, the state of the game in the USA. Where are the next stars? Are tennis’ governing bodies in the USA doing what’s necessary to find those stars and promote the game. Third, we look for trends, breaking news and good reads. As for the week-to-week regular-tour events, those do get adequate coverage online. In the print edition, they get short shrift … space restraints, mostly. Although we do find room for bigger play, say, in March, for the back-to-back combined events in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne and in the summer for the US Open series.

GVTN: How do you see the future coverage of tennis?

JF: The future already is here. Blogs — bloggers are covering events regularly, perhaps more than traditional media are now. Twitter — I can follow matches pretty closely by monitoring the various Tennis Twitterati (my word). You might be amazed at how loyal — and knowledgeable and insightful — some of these people really are … about their favorite players and the game itself. I expect more of this. I think there is more room for the kinds of stories USA TODAY tries to do now, not always tied to results but focusing on the personalities and the trends in the game. I also worry that some of the mainstream media might end up doing less and less. That might not be a concern for everyone, but as someone who works in the mainstream media it worries me.

GVTN: If you could change anything about covering the world of tennis, what would it be?

JF: More regular, consistent and understandable TV coverage. A challenge, of course, because the tours are playing all over the world. But it is a problem.

GVTN: Are you a tennis fan yourself and do you play?

JF: I am a tennis fan and have been as long as I can remember. My first real memory was being shocked to hear that Jimmy Connors had lost to Arthur Ashe in the 1975 Wimbledon final. I watch when I can, and I follow each week. As for playing, I love to play but don’t get out as often as I would like. My game is a work in progress; I spray it from the baseline and cower at the net … probably could be voted worst player in all of tennis media. Alas. … Frankly, if USA TODAY needed a representative to play in a media tournament, I would tap Doug Robson, who played tennis at Yale.

Joe Fleming has been a journalist for 22 years. He’s worked for the Arkansas Gazette, the Desert Sun and USA TODAY. Since 1997 Fleming has been with USA TODAY and became the golf and tennis editor in 2006.

In his spare time he enjoys playing golf, traveling, reading, eating and whiling away the hours in a good bar.

Find Joe Fleming on twitter: http://twitter.com/USATgolftennis

Read the USA TODAY tennis page: www.tennis.usatoday.com