When I graduated from USC in May 2001, my professors wished me luck as I embarked on a career with The Associated Press. They had prepared me for the crush of deadlines and the art of interacting with my editors. They had instilled in me a deep sense of public responsibility and commitment to the truth. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for? The 100,000 miles I would rack up on my Chevy TrailBlazer as I crisscrossed the country chasing stories and opportunities.
Over the past nine years, I’ve moved six times — to San Diego and back to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and again to Los Angeles, then off to Montana and now Atlanta. From covering wildfires and kidnappings to Winona Ryder and Robert Blake, the stories will stay with me forever. I learned how to be a better reporter during my time in Los Angeles, a better writer in Las Vegas and a better leader in Montana.
All those experiences have brought me to where I am today, overseeing news operations for The Associated Press in Georgia, home to one of the most populous metro areas in the nation. I oversee a staff of 10 reporters and two photographers. We handle everything from politics to crime and courts, race relations and immigration to agriculture and the economy.
When I speak with college students about how to break into journalism or other fields, the best advice I give them is to keep their options open and be willing to go where they need to. In a market like this, regardless of which industry you pick, the competition is fierce. I tell them that there is a danger in limiting your options and sometimes you have to go where the job is.
My willingness to pack my bags and hit the road opened numerous doors for me and allowed me to prove my adaptability, my perseverance and my commitment to the AP. There were personal sacrifices, as well, having to leave behind family and friends as I pursued my dreams. Each new place meant starting over again, making new friends while staying in touch with those back home.
There were many memorable moments along the way: accidentally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for a story about farmers in Imperial County, getting the TrailBlazer stuck on a dirt road with a wildfire approaching, interviewing Hugh Hefner poolside at The Palms and trekking through the Montana forest before daybreak for a story about bow hunting.
I have been in Atlanta since January 2009, the longest I’ve been in one place since graduation. And it feels good. I’m settling in, putting down roots for the first time in a decade. The steady stream of daily news keeps me constantly challenged, whether it’s dealing with a salmonella outbreak at a peanut plant or a hearing on a proposed expansion of a nuclear plant.
I know that one day the call will come again, and my next adventure will be just around the corner.
Christina Almeida, 31, is a graduate of USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and USC Annenberg School of Journalism. She earned her B.A. in political science and print journalism in 2001. She is The Associated Press’ news editor for Georgia and is based in Atlanta.