News Associates trainees cover London and Manchester local elections

News Associates trainees in London and Manchester covered the local elections held on May 2, 2024, reporting live from counts across the two cities.

London trainees were present at all 14 counts, covering the London mayoral race and the London Assembly results. Manchester trainees were at seven of the region’s counts covering council elections and the Greater Manchester mayoral race.

Both centres had trainees and staff in their newsrooms contributing to articles, creating social media graphics and updating a live blog.

The two centres produced city-wide coverage for their respective publications – Mancunian Matters, South West Londoner, South East Londoner, North West Londoner and North East Londoner – bringing readers each election result in detail.

London part-time trainee Ben Mulley who was reporting the London mayoral results from City Hall said: “Covering the local elections was a fantastic experience. It was fantastic to be in the room where it happens with journalists from top media organisations at City Hall.

“Equally, it was a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate my journalistic skills by interviewing mayoral candidates – including the iconic Count Binface.”

Also at City Hall, London part-time trainee Sophie Howarth said: “I had an amazing time! Even when waiting around for results or people to interview, the energy in the press room was electric.

“There were so many journalists willing to share their extensive knowledge on elections and trends. I managed to interview multiple mayoral candidates, an LSE professor and got to see Count Binface in the flesh!

“I’ll take away so many lessons from covering the count, and I’m so glad I did it.”

A highlight of the London election coverage was an interview by London full-time fast-track trainee Wang Sum Luk at City Hall with ReformUK mayoral candidate Howard Cox in which he incorrectly believed he would receive his deposit back.

Wang Sum said: “Being at City Hall was challenging in all the best ways. I spent the start of the day waiting for results to come in, but when they did, the challenge was then to report on them as quickly and accurately as I could.

“The most exciting part of the count was interviewing the candidates, whether that was getting a news scoop from talking to Reform UK’s Howard Cox, or clips of Count Binface’s antics.

“When I left City Hall late that evening I was exhausted, but it was absolutely worth it.”

Covering the Greater Manchester mayoral election, Manchester part-time trainee Lisa Valentine said: “I’d never done any political reporting before and the opportunity to get involved in something so newsworthy was too good to pass up on.

“When I was stood in the press pit with journalists from Reuters, Sky and ITV, I did feel a moment of imposter syndrome but equally, the tight deadline to have a story out as soon as an announcement was made and fast pace of the event was pretty exciting. 

“The whole day gave me a good insight and experience of working in that type of environment and is something I’d like to do again in the future.”

Our Manchester trainees faced the additional complication that local council counts were on different days at varying times, meaning that there were late nights for some.  

Manchester undergraduate trainee Emma Butterworth said: “Attending the local election count in Oldham was such an amazing experience as it allowed me to immerse myself in the drama of local politics.

“I was provided with the experience of forming local contacts, interviewing candidates and overseeing the election process and I’m very grateful for this opportunity!”

Manchester sports journalism trainee Rob White said: “It was a fantastic experience covering the Stockport council count for Mancunian Matters.

“I really enjoyed meeting other journalists there and speaking to them about their experiences of local democracy.

“Although it was a late night, it was well worth staying up to put all the skills I’ve learnt on the course into practice.”

London part-time trainee Harry Hetherington also secured a local elections exclusive for the Londoners, reporting that the Conservative candidate in the Brent and Harrow constituency intended to file a petition against the result.

He said: “Representing the North West Londoner allowed me to get right in the midst of a busy election count, an environment I could not have accessed otherwise.

“Reacting to results announced at my count as well as across the capital meant that my lines of enquiry, types of questions, and target interviewees were constantly changing through the day. Learning to adapt to this in real-time is an important skill which I improved through this experience.”

Working in the London office on the social media team, London undergraduate trainee Taaseen Choudhury said: “It was a long day, we all started to lose our minds by the end but it was a great experience and event to cover.

“The pressure in the newsroom was relaxed but we were all on the edge of our seats when the results for the different assemblies were announced.

“Everyone knew their role was and got along well. All the senior staff were patient with us and helpful in getting us to publish quick and accurately.”

News Associates editorial development assistant Gracie Daw said: “All the trainees worked excellently throughout the elections to produce important local coverage.

“Having trainees across counts in London and Manchester provided them with an invaluable opportunity to report breaking news live and in-person. Spending the day covering the election in London was great fun.”