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Tips From Tom Llamas
Interview by Ethan Ozelius and Christian Moquin
Scholastic Student Reporters

Scholastic Student Reporters interview MSNBC embedded-reporter Tom Llamas in New Hampshire in January. (Photo by Roger Brooks)
Tom Llamas has been on the campaign trail with the Reverend Al Sharpton from New York. MSNBC and NBC News has a young reporter like Llamas embedded, or planted, in each campaign to provide in-depth coverage of the 2004 race. When the embed for the presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign had to take a day off, Llamas ended up at a charity hockey game featuring the Massachusetts Senator. He talked to Scholastic Student Reporters about life on the road with a candidate.

Llamas was previously an associate producer for MSNBC's Lester Holt Live. Prior to that, he was an associate producer for MSNBC's Nachman, and a production assistant to MSNBC's Newsforce where he produced NBC News London and CNBC segments for morning programming.

Llamas graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans with a bachelor of arts in journalism and theater.

SN: Do you have any advice for young reporters?
Llamas: I would say the first thing you should do every morning before you go to school, if you get a chance, is watch the news or read a newspaper. I know some newspapers are a little bit more complicated than others, but if you find papers that are easy to read or fun to read, you could read those. If you go online, you could read a couple of different papers and find out which one you like. And keep up on the issues. If it's politics or sports or movies, stay up-to-date about it. That way you know what's going on.

SN: What's it like to follow around a campaign?
Llamas: Well, I followed Rev. Al Sharpton's campaign, which is interesting because he's not your typical candidate. He's kind of like a one-man band and entertainer. I spend a lot of time in churches because he's a preacher, and I got to know the churches very well and hear his sermons. You also do kind of cool stuff with him because he had a fund-raiser with P. Diddy and Jay Z. I got to meet those guys, which was really cool. He also did Saturday Night Live, which was really funny. He doesn't do big events like this [hockey game], though. He would never do an event with hockey players and former NHL players and famous actors and actresses. That's not really his style, but he does all kinds of things and it's been interesting and fun. It's been a lot of work.

SN: What's the funnest event you've ever been to?
Llamas: The most fun I've had was probably the first time I saw Rev. Sharpton preaching in South Carolina. It was a really small church. It looked more like a barn actually. He went in there and he just started preaching and talking about the Bible and political issues. Out of nowhere the music just started and the organ and people started singing and dancing and the crowd was singing and dancing and people were running around the church. It was interesting. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before, and it was very cool to see that aspect of the country and to see how Americans react to a candidate like Rev. Al Sharpton.

SN: Are you a fan of hockey?
Llamas: No, I'm really not. I'm from Miami and hockey never took off there. We have the Panthers, but hockey is really more of a Northeast thing. This is a really fun event though, and it's fun to watch John Kerry play hockey. It's really interesting seeing how the other guys play along with him. He just scored a goal. I don't know if they let him do that or not—I'm not a big hockey fan so I can't tell. (Editor's note: Kerry made two of five goals set up for him to score.)

SN: Do you travel a lot to different states?
Llamas: Yeah, I've been to the South a lot because that's where Sharpton has been campaigning. That's where kind of a lot of his constituents are. He's mainly appealing to African-Americans and he's trying to pick up delegates there. I went to Louisiana, and South Carolina a lot. I've also been in Florida, Iowa a little bit, New Hampshire now, and New York mainly because that's where he's from. I think after South Carolina we're going to head to Missouri and Michigan as well.