BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
It’s selfishly satisfying to know that even America’s best-known weather anchor sometimes gets annoyed by a lousy winter storm.
“Asking again,” Sam Champion posted March 2 on Facebook, about to depart his weekend home in warm Miami Beach for chilly New York City. “Why am i leaving 80 for a snowstorm....sigh.”
Champion, longtime weather anchor on ABC’s Good Morning America, has moved to The Weather Channel, where Monday morning he debuts a three-hour live weather show called AMHQ (America’s Morning Headquarters).
“It’s a whole new project for The Weather Channel,” said Champion, who in November resigned from ABC after 25 years. “It is not just filling time and changing a sign and putting someone’s name on the door. It truly is re-imagining what morning television should be for The Weather Channel audience and for America. We think that the way the traditional morning shows stack their shows don’t necessarily meet the information needs of the audience.”
Champion, The Weather Channel’s new managing editor, said AMHQ will appeal to the Internet-savvy generation.
“We believe that the audience, by the time they’ve gotten to the television set, have already checked in on their text, their Twitter, their Facebook. They’ve got a running knowledge of what’s going on in the world. They want to be informed and they want things to be filled in, but the first thing they don’t have running knowledge of is what’s going on in their environment,” he says. “We’re targeting that person who’s in charge of the family team, who has to get everybody focused and out the door.”
Champion says AMHQ will be broadcast live in all time zones. “This is not a show that will be taped three hours in New York and played three hours in L.A.”
The first 15 minutes of every half-hour will be dedicated to the top weather story. This is a new concept for morning television, Champion says.
“The amount of time that I would get on a broadcast like Good Morning America would be generally 30 seconds, unless there was some kind of big weather story — then I might get a minute, 30, with another 30 seconds later. I might get a minute, 30 for the big weather story and 30 seconds for the country’s weather.”
Champion got lots of publicity in late 2012 when he and Brazilian-born Miami artist Rubem Robierb married in New York. They had a New Year’s Eve reception in South Beach.
“I didn’t want to make an issue out of my personal life before I fell in love. And America, quite frankly, wasn’t involved in knowing the background of the people who delivered information before, either,” Champion says. “I take issue with the fact that I came out when we got married. I was out since I was 30 years old and I’m 52 now. I have a very open life. People in New York knew. I just never gave an interview about it.”
Champion and Robierb have moved their weekday residence from New York to Atlanta.
“South Florida will always be my primary residence — in my mind,” Champion says. “But my job is in Atlanta and the Weather Channel is in Atlanta, so five days a week we live in Atlanta. I love the city. It’s an amazing city. I’ve managed to get there at just the right time.”
As he’s done for two decades, Champion plans to spend most weekends in Miami Beach.
“South Florida is my total weekend,” Champion says. “I look forward to it. For me it’s beach time. I have to put my feet on the sand and I have to get in the water every weekend. It’s kind of how I get re-centered and re-energized. I’m very much a water guy. I can be in it, on top of it, underneath it. I just have to be around it.”
In and around Miami Beach, Champion and Robierb enjoy shopping and dining out.
“We’re likely to be in Yardbird, we’re likely to be in Ice Box, we’re likely to be at Pubbelly Sushi. If we want a fancy night, a night out, we’re likely to be at the SLS at Katsuya, which is a favorite of ours,” he says. “I love the new Design District, going to great shopping. For the past two weekends, I’ve spent a lot of time there.”
That’s because bad traffic frustrates Champion even more than bad weather.
“I used to make the drive up to Bal Harbour,” he says. “Can you fix the traffic for me because this construction on Alton Road is going to drive me crazy. Now everything is completely jammed up and I don’t drive as much to shop as I used to. I spend more time shopping in the smaller boutiques on the Beach.”