News Associates trainees cover every Greater Manchester local election count

Local elections took place across Greater Manchester on May 4, 2023, and News Associates Manchester trainees covered them all – attending every single one of the region’s vote counts.

There were 12 counts across Greater Manchester – one in each of the ten boroughs, with a second in both Wigan and Rochdale – and Mancunian Matters was the only publication to have a reporter at each of them.

They, and others back in the newsroom, contributed to a total of 51 articles, 13 TikTok posts, and more live blog posts and tweets than we’ve been able to add up.

Part-time course trainee Bethan Finighan was in the MM newsroom for the night shift, helping to cover the overnight counts in Bolton, Salford and Tameside – which finished at 6:30am, with a tie. She said: “Being trusted to produce accurate copy in very little time was stressful, but an invaluable experience – it was like the NCTJ Essential Journalism exam in real life!

“The highlight of the night was definitely receiving news of a draw in a Tameside ward – five minutes before the end of the shift. And to top it off, I left the MM office and went straight to full day at work!

“It was a tiring night, but hugely rewarding.”

Other highlights from our coverage included an interview with Angela Rayner MP, Manchester electing its first trans councillor, Oldham voting out its council leader for a third successive year, and Labour overtaking the Conservatives in Bolton.

Sports journalism trainee Abi Curran covered a busy count in Wigan. She said: “Covering the local elections with News Associates was an invaluable experience and it was great to feel part of a huge operation across Greater Manchester.

“The course prepared me well for acting quickly at the live count in Wigan and our tutors went the extra mile to ensure we were as prepared as we could be.

“A lot of us were out of our comfort zones but interviewing people who are responsible for local policy and putting our public affairs training into practice was very rewarding.”

Many undergraduate trainees from The School of Journalism also took part, including first-year Thomas Brace, who said: “I managed to get interviews with representatives and councillors from every major party. After this I went back to the Manchester office and wrote three articles based on the work I had done.

“The experience is a good example of the types of opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of since becoming a trainee at News Associates and the way in which the course allows us to engage with practical, on-the-ground journalism.”

Fellow first-year Harleen Uppal was on the news desk back in the office and relished taking on the live blog and social channels. She said: “The team environment within the office made the experience even more enjoyable and having the opportunity to multitask writing articles and keeping track of results, although hectic, was something I can’t wait to do again!”

Coverage of the elections began well in advance of election day itself, and involved 30 of the centre’s 44 trainees. Work done before the day included previews of each election, explainers outlining the history of the region and its politics, and vox pops – all of which was collected into a Twitter thread penned by second-year undergraduate Finn Toal.

To cap things off, trainees also had the coronation to cover that weekend – at which Saturday’s part-time class took the lead. Trainees put out another 24 articles on the coronation, before, during and after the day itself.

News Associates Manchester tutor Paul Kilbey said: “This major set of local elections was the perfect opportunity for the trainees to put what they know about both reporting and public affairs to the test – and they really rose to the occasion.

“I was blown away by how much effort they put into it. Even the night shift flew by!”

News Associates Manchester head of journalism said Alice Gregory said: “I’m so proud of what the trainees accomplished and it was great to see them putting their training into action.

“It’s been excellent preparation for their reporting careers.”