For nearly a century, The Desert Sun has kept Coachella Valley residents informed with hard-hitting coverage of important local news and current events. As the valley’s largest local media outlet, The Desert Sun has a critical voice in shaping how community members receive and digest information.
The paper covered the BNP Paribas Open long before it was known by that name, and far before the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was even built, following the tournament as it grew from an unassuming event held at a hotel to the ‘Fifth Slam’ as it is heralded today.
With their ability to understand the grandeur of the international event and distill pertinent news and features for their local Coachella Valley audience, The Desert Sun has been named the 2023 Bud Collins Media Award recipient, presented annually to a media outlet or member who have been integral in covering, promoting and supporting the tournament over a number of years.
“I got a little emotional when we heard about winning this award,” said Shad Powers, sports columnist at The Desert Sun. “This is the biggest event of the year for us, and we do put a lot of work into it more so than any other event. It’s very meaningful.”
“I feel like this is the one where sports-wise we pour the most resources and just really have the most fun,” Andrew John, The Desert Sun’s sports reporter elaborated. “For the tournament as a whole to recognize us is something I never really expected and it’s something I’m very proud of.”
While The Desert Sun covers local news year-round, members of the editorial team unequivocally say that March stands out as the Sun’s favorite time of year to report.
“The tournament has been a highlight of living here in the valley,” said Taya Gray, a multimedia journalist for The Desert Sun. “It’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck around for so many years.”
“When the tennis is out here, it really feels like it’s that time of year where the Coachella Valley is just rocking,” John added. “We love churning out all kinds of content for our readers during this time, and it’s just a really big deal to us.”
As a local paper, The Desert Sun’s coverage of the tournament differs from others in that it focuses on the tournament experience as a whole as opposed to simply individual player storylines. The superstar appeal of having top players descend on the valley can draw readers in, but members from the Sun say that it’s often the more tournament atmosphere-centric pieces that are their favorite to report.
“The Coachella Valley is just a unique place to cover sports, it’s a small community but we have some of the biggest events,” Powers said. “There have been times where we’re covering a high school water polo game on Tuesday and then interviewing Serena Williams on Wednesday.”
The opportunity to cover an event of the BNP Paribas Open’s stature is a highlight of covering news in the valley, and The Desert Sun prides itself on the ability to deliver incredible stories and content that mirrors the likes of all the reporters from around the world that come to Indian Wells for the tournament.
As a non-tennis-specific outlet, editorial team members said they value the unique perspective The Desert Sun brings compared to traditional tennis reporters who cover the Tours year-round.
“It’s such a highlight every year and a honor to be able to cover this big of an event,” Gray said. “It’s cool for me getting to be next to other photographers that cover tennis exclusively because I get to see where people are shooting from and trying to get that peak action. It’s very rewarding to be around these other talented people and such a fun challenge for me to keep up with their work.”
That said, when asked to reflect on their favorite memories from the decades of tournaments they have covered, The Desert Sun team members landed on some on-court favorite moments that stood out the most.
“When Serena returned in 2016 for the first time in more than a decade, it was just such a big deal here,” John said. “I remember her walking back on the court the first time and getting that 90-second standing ovation, it’s just one of those moments you can’t really forget.”
“I got to see Serena play Venus in 2018 and that is one of those moments where you take your journalist hat off and put your sports fan hat on. That was a moment I remember, watching that and just stopping to think about how lucky I am to be seeing this.”