Could it be any clearer that Sam Champion loves what he does??
It could be a pun to say that Sam Champion is taking the world by storm since, well, weather and storms of all kinds – currently snow storms in much of the U.S. – have been his business for the past three decades. But there’s some truth to that pun based on the out weather anchor’s big move from Good Morning America to The Weather Channel.
In his new role as Managing Editor, Champion will be steering The Weather Channel ship as it continues to be the place to go to for any weather information on national and local levels. He’ll also be anchoring the network’s new multi-hour morning show (revealed this morning via Twitter by Champion as AMHQ) that will launch this Spring on the network.
We sat down with Champion, who is as engaging and gregarious in person as he is on our televisions, to talk about the decision to take the new gig, why weather is sexy and whether marriage changed his relationship with husband Rubem Robierb.
What was the genesis of you joining The Weather Channel? Were you looking to leave GMA or did they come to you?
To be very truthful, and open about this whole process and my life– I think I have been and I’ll continue to be– I wasn’t looking for anything. I’ve been at ABC for 25 years. I never pictured myself doing anything but that, honestly. I think the conversations with The Weather Channel began as an in-theory conversation at first, and the more I heard about what they wanted to do, the more it was exciting and intriguing for me. They’ve taken this whole concept of change, they’ve changed the way that you get weather.
They’ve taken this concept of a cable network channel that is all across the country and they’ve broken it down by zip code to where they can give you your local forecast at the same time, the entire time. So, no longer do you feel like you’re not served by your local weather, while you’re looking at national or regional weather. You are. Your local weather’s right there. Then, if your local town, whether it’s Montana or whether it’s Massachusetts, is going through a weather problem, whether it’s a blizzard or a severe thunderstorm, they have the ability to take their experts, interrupt their programming only for your area, and show you the weather that’s bad in your home town.
We know that everyone else watching the Weather Channel is also getting what they need. If that’s not the most selective service that I have ever seen, in disseminating information… gosh, I don’t know how much better it can get.
Since you’re the Editor, you have a hand with a lot of the shaping of this, I assume?
This is the way I’d like to phrase it, is that there are a lot of really incredibly talented and smart people at the Weather Channel. I get to be one of the voices who talks about what goes on, and talks about how we cover things, and talks about what resources we use, and talks about what gets on the air. I get to be one of those voices, and to me, that’s an incredible opportunity, because a lot of times, in my job, you don’t get to be that voice. Someone else makes the decision about how the story’s going to be told.
I think that when I’ve come along in this business from the ground up, by the way, for 30 years. I have written and edited and turned the lights on, and shot the tape and edited the tape. I’ve done all that. So, when you get to this point in your career, it’s difficult to walk into a room and you say, ‘I’ve got a storm and we need to do this, this, this, this, this,’ and someone else says, ‘Well, that’s not important to us. We’re just going to do this and we’re going to do that, because we’re going to cover something else.’
After a while, you’re like, ‘Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, I believe that this is important. I believe that weather information is news. I believe that weather information is breaking news, and I believe that on any given day, if I have a storm on the map, I can tell you that it is just as important to the people who are beneath that storm, as any other story in your newscast, any other story.’ I found a home that believes that, and it’s the Weather Channel.
The GMA family last year: (l-r) Josh Elliott, Robin Roberts,
Champion, Lara Spencer and George Stephanopoulos
Robin Roberts publicly came out recently. I always thought GMA was probably the gayest of the morning shows, so now it proves it!
Really? Do you have to go there? Here’s the thing, here’s what I don’t like about it. We all sit around and we all make jokes. We all do, with all of our friends, we make jokes like that. What I was striving for through my entire career, and I’m only going to talk about me right now, is to move beyond that, to move beyond it. I don’t think it needs to be a conversation. My feeling was, are we going to have sex? Then we’ll talk about sex. If we’re not going to have sex, then why is sex coming up as a topic of conversation? I didn’t understand it and that was me for a very long time.
Next Page… Champion on his love life becoming a topic of conversation
Rubem Robierb is the “coolest person on the planet,” says Champion of his husband.
Champion (continued): When my love life became a topic of conversation was when I fell in love and wanted to legitimize that relationship, wanted to say, ‘This is the person that I’m with for my life.’ Now, with all that said, and I already know what you’re thinking, ’politically, sure, Sam, you get a chance to do that, but not everybody can, so don’t you think it’s an important conversation?’ So now, I believe it’s an important conversation, in a way that when I was young, I didn’t. That’s just growing up and understanding. I would push my way through most situations. Someone said no to me, no was an obstacle. ‘What do you mean, no? If we go around this way, maybe that’s a yes. This could be a maybe if we go left and hook a right.’ Now, I understand that there’s a responsibility, and it comes with growing older, it does, or maybe just getting smarter.
Maybe some people are smarter than I am earlier in their life, but we do have a responsibility to make things better for people that are younger than us and maybe that means that you have to talk about things before you think you have to talk about them. So, I get it. I understand it, but I hope that people understand that in my life, I just didn’t want it to be a conversation. I wanted my work to be a conversation. I wanted my skill to be a conversation. I wanted my accomplishments to be the conversation. That’s what I wanted to be judged on.
Partly because I’m originally from the Midwest but now live in Los Angeles, I have to often ask myself ‘Do I need to ask the gay question?’ but I have to remind myself ‘You know what? There might be somebody in Iowa who hasn’t gotten there yet and needs to hear it.’
You’re right, and the other thing that I think we really have to do is I think we have to back off on everyone, and quit telling people what they need to do and when they need to do it. You know what? People are doing the best they can in their lives, and they’re all in a different place than you are. It’s ridiculous for you to sit in a chair in your living room and tell someone how they’re supposed to live their life, or criticize them for the timing or the way they can make an announcement or they come to a realization. Shame on you. What I would say to you is, get out there and weed your own garden. Hey, is your lawn cut today? Why don’t you take care of your stuff and let them take care of them? Chances are, they’re working as hard as they can to get their life together.
They’ll get ready. It’s really about your life, and there’s nothing more personal in your life than that topic of conversation. So, let people come to it when they can. However, I get it. There’s a real need for us to have equal rights across this country and across the world, and in order to do that, you have to have that political conversation. I get that.
What are some of your vices, whether it’s chocolate or just something that you can’t live without?
You can basically throw the topic out on the table, and it’s a vice for me. I’m poorly, poorly disciplined. I love chocolate chip cookies. I will not eat one, I will eat the bag. I don’t start a candy bar and then put it away. I finish the candy bar, whether it’s a candy bar for 12 people or one person, I will finish it. So, that’s why I keep away from that stuff, but you name it, I have it. I don’t smoke.
I get asked this a lot, because I’ve been married about a year and a half.
Thank you. People always ask, ‘Did marriage change your relationship? Did it change how you looked at marriage?’ So, I’ll ask you the same thing since you’re newly married. Did your marriage change things?
It didn’t because I married the coolest person on the planet. Honestly, when I say that, I mean it. This is someone who makes me a better person, just by being around him. He is calm and he is good and he is kind, and all these things that I strive to be, and I don’t know that I’m always successful at. They’re just innate to him. He just is. I spent a lot of time actually praying to be understanding, and praying to be kind, and praying to do those things. Rubem just wakes up and that’s who he is. So, in my life, it just changed me for the better.