Life was very different for James Villalobos just a few months ago.
This year, Fuse and VotoLatino teamed up to find two aspiring reporters to cover the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions for its Crash The Parties program, and James stood out as a top candidate among hundreds of picks. Now he’s on the scene at the RNC in Cleveland, to report on one of the most-watched political events of the year.
A senior at the University of Massachusetts, James is the only U.S. citizen in his family; as such, many of the central issues at the RNC hold a special interest for James, but he has an important mantra that he tells himself.
“I have to remember that I’m a journalist, and not an activist, so I can’t take anything personally. This business has built thick skin for me. I’m here to report the facts,” he says.
Here’s what the first day of the RNC looked like for James:
7:15 am: I wanted to eat breakfast before getting dressed because I didn’t want to get dirty — knowing my luck, I would spill something on myself first thing. I had eggs, a bagel, sausage, and OJ.
10:00 am: I was researching for my interview with Sheriff Arpaio of Arizona, the interview that we locked in last night! He’s a very stern guy, and he’s very proud of the work he’s done. He’s a big enforcer of SB 1070—it basically allows law enforcement officials to ask people they think are immigrants for papers to prove their citizenship. For me, I knew they wanted me to share my family story, and I had to make sure my family was okay with it. It was exciting to know that Jose Diaz-Balart, the MSNBC anchor, was joining me for the interview, since I’ve looked up to him for so long.
11:30 am: Still waiting for the Sheriff to show up. Hell yeah, I was nervous! I was concerned because I know what the Sheriff’s work consists of, and given my family background, I didn’t know what the interview might escalate to. But it went smoothly. It was just conversation at the end of the day. I was concerned that people might judge me for being only 20 years old, but at the end of the day, they’re not in my shoes.
12:30 pm: We rush to our Latino Leaders Luncheon, where I interviewed the two individuals that won Eagle Leadership Awards, Gaddi Vasquez and Rudy Beserra. It’s cool to see they care so much about getting Latinos to vote, given their positions. They were really smooth interviews.
3:00 pm: I read tweets and got caught up on anything I may have missed. My feet were beat, but I was hoping I did okay, and if not, I would hope someone told me!
5:00 pm: We saw TVs that showed a roll call happening by the “End Trump” movement, so we tried to rush to the scene. I didn’t quite have a grip on the situation, and wanted to get to the scene as quickly as possible. We jumped in the van and I had a complete adrenaline rush. We didn’t quite make it in time to see the commotion, which I was disappointed about, but I did get a chance to interview some delegates during the convention recess.
6:00 pm: I got to the floor of the convention center. You see it on TV, and it doesn’t look all that big, and then you see it with your own eyes and it’s mind-blowing.
8:00 pm: The convention starts. I was trying to listen, absorb, tweet, and make sure I keep my social media account active throughout it all. Since the theme was “Make America Safe Again,” there was a lot of talk about an elite military and making sure police are safe. My main role is to remain neutral and report the facts; I have to remember I’m there for the job and not for myself.
9:30 pm: Long story short, my feet are tired, it was a long day, it was hot, there was a lot of hustling, and I’m ready to sleep. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!
Keep your eyes on Fuse.tv and Crashtheparties16.com this week for the rest of the RNC and July 25-28 for the Democratic National Convention. Be sure to follow @fusetv on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat for further coverage of the conventions. And watch the highlights of James' opening RNC day below: