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How One Reporter Covers the US Open for Newspapers All Over the Country

By: Pete Croatto for Poynter

Michael J. Lewis annually covers the U.S. Open, professional tennis’ fourth and final grand slam of the year. The Providence Journal puts in for — sponsors — his credential. Once among the throngs in Queens, New York, Lewis could also be writing on deadline for The Kansas City Star. Or The Cincinnati Enquirer. Or a small paper in Wisconsin that will only remember to pay him when snow hits the ground.

Should a Rhode Island story emerge, Lewis can pitch Bill Corey, the Journal’s sports editor. If Corey is game, Lewis will add it to the Word doc of assignments and leads that resides in his email. This is what will keep a one-man news service humming for three weeks.

Every August, Lewis pores over the Open’s participants — players in qualifying rounds, juniors — to see who’s playing and where they live. Then he matches players’ hometowns or colleges to local papers and promotes his strengths: He lives in Port Washington, New York, a 30-minute train ride to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens. An editor doesn’t have to pay for travel or rely on just-the-facts, ma’am wire copy — if there is any. He’s experienced. And he works cheap, which he stresses in his pitch. Last year, Lewis wrote 13 stories for nine papers and earned a little shy of $1,100 in addition to covering the Open’s juniors tournament for the International Tennis Foundation.

He guesses the least he’s made for a story is $35; the most, between $200 and $250. He usually gets between $50 and $100. A day can start between 10 and 11 a.m., and get him home close to 11 p.m., when his two children, soon-to-be 9-year-old Nate and 5-year-old Theo, fully reside in dreamland.

Lewis’s close friend is Jeff Pearlman, a University of Delaware classmate and the New York Times best-selling sportswriter (“Showtime,” “The Last Folk Hero”). Pearlman often texts Lewis during his Flushing Meadows residency.

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Photo by Raj Tatavarthy:

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