After 25 years at ABC, first at its New York flagship station and then at “Good Morning America,” weathercaster Sam Champion has segued to the Weather Channel, where he hosts the newly launched weekday morning show “AMHQ,” which stands for "America’s Morning Headquarters." Broadcast live from 7-10 a.m. EST, the show is heavy on weather-oriented topics, but not exclusively so.
“This is a new concept for morning television,” Champion says, explaining that 30 seconds of weather on a network or local show isn’t enough time to adequately help people prepare for the day ahead. “This concept allows me to broaden that,” including what’s going on locally or nationally, or if you’re traveling. “Lots of live coverage, lots of live pictures, and complete day-part understanding so that you can plan your day, plus news and business headlines. I want you to be able to get that information from us as well in a place that you feel like is friendly and like family, a place that you would invite into your home to hang out with in the morning.”
Local weather “is always going to be a priority, so we’re beefing up the ticker at the bottom” of the screen, says Champion, but he believes viewers also want to know what is happening in nearby areas because that weather can affect them next. If there’s a storm coming, “I need to show you that storm so that you know how bad it is. People will venture outside unless you show them a picture that looks bad and tell them, ‘You know, you really shouldn't go outside.’ And I also need to show the aftermath of the storm because a community that is going through the worst, toughest time in their life needs help.”
Fortuitously for Champion and “AMHQ,” this unusually long and brutal polar vortex winter has made the weather a prime topic of conversation and concern. “I think what people are responding to about this particular winter is the amount of cold that has moved into the country. When you see temperatures going lower than they have in 20 or 30 years in a city or in an area, you've got an entire generation of people who have never seen temperatures like that where they live, and that's a big deal to them,” he says.
A Kentucky native who worked as a local weatherman there and in Jacksonville, Fla., early in his career, Champion is not a meteorologist or climatologist but is someone who has always been obsessed by weather. “I got into this business as a kid because I loved being in the weather. I loved kind of talking about weather. I don't have a hobby. This is my hobby. I worked my way up through this business. I made the stations that I was at No. 1 in weather. I took it from a graphics perspective wanting to show people what the weather was. For me, the key to success was letting people know what's going to happen, what might happen, what probably isn't going to happen, and then coming afterwards and telling them what did happen.”
And if that requires being out in the eye of the storm, bring it on, Champion says. “You won't be able to keep me out of it. When there are storms to go to, we'll go. We'll go as a team, and there will be times that I'm inside the studio as well. It's going to depend on the storms and what we need to mobilize to tell the story.”
“It's an incredible responsibility to forecast the weather, to keep people safe during a storm, and to come in and talk about the cleanup and how to help people afterwards,” Champion says. “So I'm excited to be there and be a part of it.”
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