Category: GEMA, GEMA Externship

Title:GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now? – Chris Almeida (C’16), Sports Illustrated

In our series The GEMA Externship: Where Are They Now?, we reconnect with past Externs to find out how their careers have progressed since graduation. 

Chris Almeida (C’16) is a Staff Editor at Sports Illustrated focusing on Features and daily cover verticals. Before joining SI, he worked as an editorial assistant and assistant editor at The Ringer.

What was your experience like attending Georgetown? Were there any particularly formative experiences that were special to you?

I spent a lot of my time playing music: I was in the jazz band and I was in the music program. I also spent a lot of time playing music off-campus with a band that I had. I don’t think Georgetown is a particularly musical school, so that was cool for me to find those experiences. I also spent a lot of my time with the Georgetown Voice. I was involved with that all four years that I was there, and I edited it my senior year. I think that really influenced what I’m doing now. Before I got involved with [the Voice] I had never really thought about a career in media or being a journalist. I think it’s really fortunate that I ended up doing that. Someone I knew asked me, “You like sports, why don’t you do this?” A lot of journalists that I know knew they wanted to be a reporter when they were 10, but that wasn’t really me.

What was your first “big break” into your industry?

My first job, my first big break, was at The Ringer, which at the time that I graduated, didn’t even exist. At that point in time, I applied for an internship at Grantland which was an ESPN publication, and I got an interview there but I didn’t get the get the internship, but I kept nagging the person who interviewed me, Mallory Rubin, and she reached out to me to say: hey, we’re starting a thing I can’t tell you exactly what it is like do you want to be an intern here? And I said yes.

So I started at this website that didn’t exist, and two days after graduation, I moved out to LA, started there and then the launch was a week or two later. In a way it was really a sign of how much I already had in my corner — I had enough support from my family and other people that I knew, so I could take an indefinite term internship for $10 an hour on the other side of the country without knowing if it would actually lead to employment. That is a reflection of my privilege and that’s a big issue in the industry: the expectation is that when your career starts out that you just have no security. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s what I had to do and I did it. That position eventually turned into a job, and I was an editorial assistant there for a couple of years.

Because it was a new company and kind of a multi-platform company, I got experience doing everything from writing to editing to fact checking to working on podcasts on the research side, and that allowed me to get to know a ton of people in journalism who are really smart and good people and have been really good resources for me since then.

What did your career path to your current position look like?

I worked as an editorial assistant at The Ringer for about two years and then I got promoted to an editor position. I did that for about two more years, and then I kind of felt like it was time to go to a new thing, so I joined Sports Illustrated as a staff editor in January. They’re a magazine with a very long, historical reputation and right now, we’re definitely trying to find our feet in the Digital Media era. I think that is tough in a lot of ways and also is really exciting in a lot of ways.

What do you do in your job now?

I get an opportunity to be the more senior editor at a place with really good name recognition, and also in a place that despite that reputation is willing to try a lot of new stuff, because being just the print magazine doesn’t really work anymore. I’ve only been here for six months now, but I mostly work on feature stories and the daily cover vertical, which is basically an online version of what would be a cover story every day. A lot of those stories are really good and really impactful, and the biggest one that we worked on recently was about sticky stuff and baseball — pitchers using sticky stuff to change their spin rates and make themselves unhittable, and it resulted in this huge backlash and more checking on pitchers.

What is your favorite part of your current position?

It’s really just getting to work on good stories, as much as that can be a rare thing. A lot of people in media, especially junior people, like to work on stuff that they’re excited about — in the worst cases you’re at a place that is really trolling for clicks, where you have to do what the algorithm tells you, and it’s exhausting. I think there aren’t a lot of people who get the freedom to only work on things that are exciting to them, and I certainly don’t only work on things that are very exciting to me, but I think that I’m really lucky to be a relatively young person, getting to mostly work on things that I think are impactful, either in an artistic sense or in a societal sense. These stories do have a larger impact whether that’s unfairness in the game of baseball or whether it’s celebrating trans athletes or underrepresented groups and how they’ve gotten the short end of it in sports. I think that those are all meaningful things to be able to write about. You’re not going to change the world, but sometimes it’s cool to feel like what you’re doing means something to somebody.

What was the GEMA externship experience like for you? Did it have an influence on your career/help kickstart your career?

One of my music professors, Professor Celenza, told me about a program affiliated with the music department to help make media connections and suggested that I go. Back then in 2016, I ended up talking with people at Sports Illustrated, including the editor in chief, and weirdly enough, I’ve ended up there like five years later. It was a good opportunity to go and see different parts of the entertainment industry: I talked to one of the founders of A24, we talked to people in news, we talked to people in data journalism. It was all super interesting. I also met a couple of alumni that I didn’t even know were from Georgetown, like Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight: I had no idea that she at one point edited The Voice and that was a cool thing to learn. Sometimes at Georgetown when you think of the school, you think everyone here is a consultant, or trying to be in intelligence. But if you look, there are plenty of alumni in creative industries. The externship definitely exposed me to that.

What part of the externship did you find most valuable?

Before I went on the externship, I didn’t really know how to network. Mostly what it did for me was it gave me the template for where to look for people — just realizing that there are a lot of people in the Georgetown web that will talk to you because you also went to Georgetown or did something at Georgetown similar to them, and you don’t need to be directly asking them for something. Since then, I’ve been more on the lookout for people who I can just reach out to and start informal relationships. Those are a good thing to have for asking for advice. When you’re on campus, you definitely get tunnel vision, and this was kind of a way to break out of that a little bit.

What’s your advice for an undergraduate trying to break into your industry?

Journalism is a great deal if you can get it. That’s frustrating for a lot of reasons because obviously the people who are going to be able to get great positions like this are people like me who can afford to take on more risk and can afford to spend more time not making a living wage. But there’s work being done to change that.

The most fulfilling part of being in this industry over the last couple of years for me is the wave of unionization. I helped organize at The Ringer, and that was really meaningful and they just got a contract a couple months ago. You just have a group of people where you can bring up labor concerns and talk about what you think isn’t working for you and they’ll listen. It used to be kind of taboo to ask people about their pay or talk about things in the company that you were unhappy with and you never knew how people felt about it. At SI, right now we’re bargaining, and I feel like every major outlet is either in negotiations right now or has a contract. People used to see unions as being for blue collar jobs and not for “soft” industries. Being part of trying to improve the industry, even if it might not be possible entirely or if it’s not going to be sufficient, that’s been really meaningful for me. Overall, navigating the politics of the industry has made me a more conscientious person, and I feel like I’ve gotten better at working on stories.

I’ve also been lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to work with people who’ve been in the industry for a long time who are interested in helping me get better at editing and writing. That’s really cool because a lot of people never get that kind of mentorship and I feel like I’ve been lucky to have that.