Telling the stories of the US Open

Imagine a room with banks upon banks of cubicles, each of which contains a monitor, a laptop and a headset.

No, it’s not a telemarketing business but part of the Media Center at the US Open. While fans are raving about the new “Louie,” as in the Louis Armstrong Stadium, or taking in the action at Arthur Ashe or the Grandstand or one of the other courts, members of the press are hard at work at their designated cubicles, banging out stories for publications and media websites all over the world.

They are not necessarily, then, out in the upper reaches of the stadiums, which is where the press sits. Well, couldn’t reporters just watch TV at home and file the same pieces? Ah, but then they would miss the periodic PA announcements like “So-and-so, who just won on Court 13, will be in Interview Room 1 at 2 p.m.” And they wouldn’t be able to sign up for interviews with popular players, as we saw one Asian journalist do.

Nor would they be able to watch the parade of players and celebrities who come through the center’s entrance. (We spotted blade-thin tennis commentator and former world No. 1 Mats Wilander.)

And they wouldn’t be able to enjoy a nice lunch and take a break in the café. (The press gets meal money.) There we saw two German journos kibitzing over Heinekens, one of the US Open sponsors, and two Aussie TV reporters plotting strategy and pacing themselves in the extreme heat. We took our share of breaks there, too, watching Venus Williams on one of the TVs and enjoying a chicken cutlet, Italian-style, broccoli, pasta and a Ben & Jerry’s Eskimo pie at a table overlooking the practice courts – while we wrote a story. (Hey, there’s really no free lunch.)

Perhaps best of all to a print journalist is that the Media Center does public relations the old-fashioned way. There are reams and reams of press releases on the day’s matches and stats and bios on the day’s players, plus packets of clippings on the previous days matches. There are also color programs on the day’s matches that are sold to the public but are free to the press.

Among the most coveted items, to us, are the thick reporter’s notebooks sponsored by Chase and J.P. Morgan.

The US Open Media Center really knows how to treat the press right.

The US Open concludes this Sunday, Sept. 9. For more, visit usopen.org.

– Georgette Gouveia

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