Posted: 1:41 pm Saturday, July 16th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
From Cleveland, Ohio
It was like Old Home Week at the airport as I was ready to fly to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. The boarding area was jammed with reporters, various news media types, GOP insiders and more, most of us on our way to watch the GOP nominate Donald Trump for President.
“The gang is all here,” said veteran radio reporter Askia Muhammad, who was among the many journalists trading small talk before we jumped into the vortex of covering a major party convention.
We had more than enough to start our own news bureau, with folks from C-SPAN, SiriusXM, Politico, several newspaper reporters, some of our colleagues lugging TV cameras and heavy equipment boxes, and others like me dragging along their radio news gear.
“Never check your equipment,” was the advice that I learned the hard way about traveling to cover politics – in other words, don’t give the airline a chance to lose your equipment. Clothes are another thing.
As my colleague Gerry Bodlander of AP Radio likes to say, “You can always buy new clothes.”
“Have fun this week in Cleveland!” chirped the gate agent as the airplane door closed.
A little over an hour later, we landed in Cleveland; I looked across the runway and saw a big convention center just next to the airport:
It was back in early March that I was inside that same building for a huge Donald Trump rally, just days before Trump fell short here in Ohio, losing to home state Governor John Kasich.
As the plane pulled up to the gate, my friend Gerry’s biggest concern was how he was getting to the hotel that the Associated Press was commandeering this week, as not everyone was given a rental car.
That got fixed as we were walking off the plane, when the guy across the row said he also worked for AP.
So, while Gerry headed off with his hotel ride, I went to the rental car center.
“Frank is the Mayor, John is the Governor, but LeBron in the King,” said the jovial guy who drove us over to get our rental cars.
My ride this time is pretty sweet – it isn’t a big transit van like in Iowa – but this time a little red Beetle.
It won’t be hard to figure out where I am parked, at least.
After driving into Cleveland in the rain, I made my way to the basement of a downtown building where press credentials were being distributed to reporters.
Luckily, the people handing out credentials are the same ones who help us deal with coverage in the Capitol, so in just a few minutes, I was taken care of, and ready to go.
Next stop – Quicken Loans Arena, home of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
After taking a few wrong turns in the streets of downtown Cleveland, I found my way into the arena, where they were still putting the finishing touches on things for the GOP.
Around and around I walked, looking for my press seat – lots of signs for Level 6, but I sure couldn’t find it.
But after a while, I finally made it up here, and while I have very little space in which to work, it’s a pretty good view.
It’s hard to believe that this is my 14th major party national convention.
I’ve come a long way from the first one that I covered, the Democratic National Convention in 1988 in Atlanta – when I slept on someone’s couch and took the bus all over that city to interview delegates.
I was working back then at a small news agency where half of our job was covering the news, and the other half was calling radio stations around the country to sell it.
My boss gave me $200 for expenses that week – and the deal was, whatever I had left over, I could keep.
Hello, Cleveland. I’m sure it will be fun week.