BA Journalism students reflect on the General Election 2024

University of Leeds BA Journalism students share their experiences of covering the General Election 2024

The 2024 General Election is over, delivering a Labour government for the first time in 14 years, and University of Leeds BA Journalism students were on hand every step of the way to capture this historic moment. 

Below some of the students share their reflections of covering the election counts across Yorkshire. 

BA Journalism Programme Leader Layla Painter said:

"It has been brilliant to see so many of our students to play a role in covering this important breaking news story. This opportunity to work alongside seasoned journalists and deliver material for major broadcasters during the election period will be valuable industry experience to prepare them for future careers."

Poppi Andelin

I had the pleasure of working my first ever freelancing shift for the BBC on election night as a stringer. They situated me in the Stockton North and Stockton West count which wasn't too far from my hometown.

My role involved waiting for turnout figures and candidate results, which I then had to instantly feedback to the BBC with a number they provided for me.

I was also sent an iPhone and a tripod so that the whole count could be live streamed for their 'Camera at Every Count' project, which could be viewed on BBC IPlayer throughout the whole night.

Tech used at the count

Tech used at the count

The night was long but thrilling! It was so cool to be part of such a historic night for British politics, and an amazing opportunity for a journalism student like myself to get involved with such an invaluable organisation like the BBC.

I also met some other amazing reporters at my count, some being from The Northern Echo and BBC Radio Tees.

My count finished at around 4:30am, to which the BBC then released me so that I could go home to have a long lie in!

All in all, a very insightful and invaluable experience that I feel lucky to have gained!

Natalia Antoniw

I spent the night as an election stringer for the BBC and worked on their “camera at every count” project. My job was to livestream the election counts at Doncaster racecourse (my home city) and feedback the turnout and vote count for all candidates in the constituencies of Doncaster North, Doncaster Central and Doncaster East and the Isle of Axholme. As soon as the votes were counted, I called the BBC so they could input them into their website.

The BBC sent me an iPhone and tripod to set up which overlooked the counts, I was there until it was over so audiences could watch their local counts live! It was streamed on BBC iPlayer and BBC web online. 

It was a great feeling knowing I did something like this alone, but also great meeting other professionals there. I was surrounded by journalists from Sky, the BBC and Doncaster Free Press. I was able to see their projects too and watched Ed Miliband go live for BBC news and radio. 

My shift started at 10pm and I was released at 5:30am - it sounds rough, but it honestly went really fast! Whilst I was waiting for the results, I was keeping up to date with all the election news from other places on my laptop and networked with the press there. I was almost disappointed when the shift was over! 

Media at the count


The atmosphere there was great too, such emotion from the crowds. It was also interesting to see the result of Doncaster East, as many people were uncertain as to whether the Conservative candidate or Labour would win (Labour did). It was also interesting to see what snacks everyone brought.

I was paid for this and am now on the BBCs freelancing data base, so it was very worthwhile. I would say this has been a major highlight in my journalism journey and I'm really grateful to have had this experience. 

Vanely Barumire

I wasn't at a count during the election, but I was working in the newsroom at Bauer over the week as they prepared for Election Day and after the election.

During my time at Bauer, I saw what preparation goes into covering an election. There were multiple meetings about what can and cannot be said on Election Day and what stories would be run to fill the time. There were also discussions about shifts as many reporters were covering the election overnight. 

The day following the election, I edited interviews from the winning and losing MPs that were aired during the Cabinet member appointment and others which will be aired throughout the first week of the new government. I also got vox pops from Rachel Reeves' constituency about Reeves' new role as the Chancellor and Labour's landslide win. 

I really enjoyed it. Even though I wasn't present during the election, the experience gave me a better understanding of the amount of planning that it takes to effectively cover an important event like the Election, which is also crucial to journalism.

Olivia Davies

I spent the night of the General Election working as a count reporter for the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) as part of their collaboration project that included other student journalists from Universities with BJTC accredited journalism courses. I was also working for Bauer Media (specifically the Northwest news team) which involved me providing them with visuals and audio directly from the count.

I was based in my hometown of Manchester to report on the counting of votes for the Manchester Central constituency. I worked alongside another BJTC student count reporter Sam Stimpson who was covering the Manchester Rusholme area. She studies journalism at the University of Salford. It was nice to have some company with a fellow student journalist, it really helped to calm my nerves and meant we could empower each other throughout the night.

In the weeks running up to the election, I developed my researching skills by collecting facts and figures on my constituency, its history and candidates as well as how it fits into the wider political sphere of the UK (for example, Manchester Central has been a labour safe seat for a long period of time). I then compiled this research into two radio previews that could be played on NLive radio, which was the community station the BJTC was using for its election night output. I had the opportunity to deliver a live broadcast with updates from the count, which is something I had never done before. I was very nervous when I got the call before I went on air, but I took a deep breath and reminded myself I had done my research, and the presenters were there to help if needed.

I had the exciting opportunity to interview two candidates. The first was Chris Northwood of the Liberal Democrats, and the second was the winning candidate who is now the Leader of the House of Commons, Lucy Powell MP. I was nervous to approach them at first, but after interviewing them I felt that my confidence increased greatly.

The atmosphere on the night started off quite slow, but quickly ramped up when count results started to be announced. I had a long time to wait until the winner for Manchester Central was announced at around 4:30 am, but I had plenty of snacks to keep me going (my favourite snack was my Haribo Tangfastics!)

Although this wasn't the first time I had produced and edited content independently, as I'm a part of some student media societies at the University of Leeds (LSTV and LSR) and have also created individual reports for my course assessments, it was the first time my content was being used and broadcasted by professional organisations, which was a very daunting but equally exciting thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole opportunity and I’m grateful that I could be part of it. It was a long night working from 10pm until 6am, but it was entirely worth it to be a part of an event where such a historic landslide occurred. I'm hopeful that I get the opportunity to do it all again the next time a General Election comes round.

Penelope Helbest

It was 10pm, I was in Wakefield with the BBC, and surrounded by vote count staff in rhubarb pink t-shirts. I had a long night ahead of me. The ‘declaration’, or announcement of the votes was set to come around 5am. But the work doesn’t end right then. There are post-election interviews, live 2-ways with the studio, and lots more running around. It’s safe to say the energy drink I bought was well needed.

Usually the way to cover the election is to register in freelancer databases. The BBC has a ‘talent cloud’, but that’s not how I got in. I was put into contact with a local news editor via my course.

So what did I learn about covering an election in 2024?

1. It’s not as scary as you’d think.

The press section was far friendlier than I could’ve predicted. It helped to be shadowing such a nice journalist too, but I was surprised how everyone somehow knew everyone else. Alongside that, depending on the broadcast corp, you’ll have some material to help guide you. The BBC provided a media pack with a flowchart of what you need to do on the night, plus information about the constituencies and their candidates, and demographic information. That would help if you're putting together a live that needs to contextualise the area, or need relevant questions to ask candidates.

2. The tech is always updating.

The BBC uses mojo kits! Both a disappointment and a relief. It's a bit of a let-down that I'm already using the same kit they are, so I shouldn't expect any fancy upgrades down the line. But I'm sure lugging around a massive camera when you're only really going after minutes long content would be no use. They also have apps for sharing their work, an election channel so everyone is updated, and an app for lives with the studio.

The stringer there, who advised me to be a stringer next time (easy money!), had set up a livestream of the count. This is a whole new thing, apparently. They usually just confirm the electoral numbers when they’re declared and feed that back. Sometimes, if it's too unexpected of a gain according to the office, they'll have to do more checks.

3. Contribute however much you can.

Take initiative! If it looks like something needs doing, it probably does. Make yourself useful with the kit, and keep your eyes open for roaming candidates. Sometimes you’ll have to Google someone's face to check if it’s really them. Points if they're wearing the same suit in the photo.

I decided to look into why all the vote staff had pink t-shirts on. It turns out it was part of Wakefield’s ‘Our Year’, representing the rhubarb plant. It made it into the radio as a fun fact that brought some colour to the story. No matter how insignificant, small observations could mean something relevant.

4. Each election is its own can of worms.

Perhaps due to the UK’s mood, a lot of things were unexpected even to the seasoned journalists around me. The number of people who came in to vote was dismal. According to the national turnout, only ‘60%’ turned up across the UK, ‘the second lowest in a UK election since 1885. Only 2001 was lower with 59%.’ 2001 was also a Labour victory marked with voter apathy.

In fact, there was plenty of apathy to go around. Many of the conservative candidates across the four Wakefield constituencies didn’t even turn up on stage.

In comparison, Reform was very visible. They consistently got about nine thousand votes, seven or eight thousand behind Labour. A party I’d only heard about through the inflammatory words of Nigel Farage or scandals of the day was suddenly everywhere.

Seemingly, there are certain tides of politics that can’t be measured until it comes time to vote.

Emma Jackson

I had the pleasure of reporting on the 2024 general election in the Leeds count for the BJTC, specifically focusing on the new seat of Leeds West and Pudsey.

The experience was so insightful and really helped me expand my knowledge of politics from what I had previously learnt in my politics module of first year.

Prior to the election I recorded two previews regarding my chosen constituency’s history and candidates which were played on Nlive on the evening of the election.

On the election night my main focus was tweeting updates at the count including: ballot boxes arriving, reactions to the exit polls and arrivals of MP’s including the then Labour’s shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves who indeed won her seat of Leeds West and Pudsey.

I gathered all election results in Leeds and spoke live on air to Nlive in which I expressed the importance of Reeve’s win making her become the first ever female chancellor in the UK.

I gained some incredible advice from media professionals who were at the count and I felt so privileged to be able to witness how huge media outlets such as the BBC prepared and delivered an interview with a powerful MP such as Rachel Reeves.

It was certainly a night I won’t be forgetting!

Camila Ramos

During the UK General Election 2024, I had the opportunity to work as a stringer for Sky News. Based in Sheffield, my job started a bit before the polls closed and went on until the early hours of 5am. My main task was to set up cameras and broadcast live, capturing the buzz and anticipation of the election night.

Camila at count

Camila Ramos at the count

In Sheffield, there were six constituencies I needed to keep track of. I had to listen carefully to each declaration and submit the exact number of votes for each candidate on the respective constituency through the Sky News elections app, a tool provided for us stringers. This required a high level of attention to detail and accuracy.

It was a long night, but the excitement of being part of such a significant event kept me going. This experience taught me about the immense effort that goes into behind-the-scenes camera work. It was a real eye-opener to the dedication and hard work of everyone involved in the process.

This experience not only made me more passionate about journalism but also gave me a deeper appreciation for the role of media in our democratic process. It was a night of learning, growth, and reaffirmation of my commitment to journalism. It was an experience I’ll carry with me as I continue my journey in this field.

All words and pictures are copyright of the students.