When I think about the best moments in my career so far, the week of training in Nashville, Tenn., in 2008 with my fellow Chips Quinn Scholars comes to mind.
And not just because Nashville is gorgeous. Or because the Scholars spent our first night playing the most glorious game ever played of “never have I ever.” (Don’t tell the grown-ups).
On a serious note, I learned so much on that trip, and I met the greatest people. The weeklong training cemented in me what it means to be a journalist — the responsibilities attached, the hardships (hello, no sleep) and dedication we must exercise to do our jobs right.
I got my first job in journalism — at the great Arizona Republic — because of my Chips Quinn fellowship. In fact, I’d only been a Scholar for a few weeks before the paper offered me a full-time job as a police reporter in Gilbert. At the time, Gilbert was a Pleasantville-type town that hadn’t seen a murder in, like, seven years. Good way to get crime-reporting chops!
I learned a ton from covering small-town Gilbert, from writing about zoning commission meetings, to watchdogging evil homeowners associations that went after people if their grass was one-quarter of an inch too tall. Seriously!
I moved on to bigger crime in Albuquerque, N.M., working for the Albuquerque Journal. That’s where I honed my reporting and investigative skills. I won some awards there for my reporting on police shootings (admit it, we all like to win awards) and worked hard to improve my reporting and writing.
After a move to back to Arizona and a brief detour in public relations, The Associated Press hired me.
Boy, did I overestimate my award-winning skills. My first year at the AP was as trying as it was thrilling.
The AP is its own world of super-fast deadlines and madness. The standards and rigor dwarfed those at my previous posts. It took a while to adjust, but I knew right away I was home. I love the people I work with, the issues I cover and the reach my stories have to far-flung places around the nation and the world.
I am most proud when one of my stories gets picked up by the paper in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. My grandpa, a retired sports journalist from Mexico who inspired me to become a reporter, likes to ask me about them.
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