Covering my first election was a buzz

Liberal Steve Radford with JMU Journalism’s Patrick Arnold

Covering my first election campaign with JMU Journalism has given me the kind of insight into the world of journalism that I could never have expected to get as a first year student.

How wrong I was in my belief that I would be working as a small cog in a much larger machine on smaller stories, with little say. Last month, it took just one e-mail to tell me that I was not only part of the Liverpool Mayor election coverage team but that I also had my first piece to write… and more would follow.

With a 400-500 word count to meet it tested me, I’m not afraid to admit that. It took a lot of further research to get the story to length and to a standard that I was happy with to put my name on it. The next day I had my first lead story byline.

Though I always assumed that seeing my name leading a page would be underwhelming – it is only two words on a webpage – I was struck with the thought that once just isn’t enough. It’s almost as I now describe it, a disease, to want much more.

I was tasked with getting an interview with Liam Fogarty, the leading independent candidate in the race. Fogarty was a name I had some familiarity with, More than that, a lot of respect for. Not that I told anyone this whilst I chased him.

This interview taught me one of the most vital lessons I think I will ever learn. I’ve tried to craft it into a sentence: You might be a student journalist, but as with fishing, it’s the bait and not the rod that catches the fish.

Patrick Arnold

I had sent an e-mail and that was it. After a week or so of silence I assumed that there was no interest and that I wasn’t landing the story. But then one day I checked my phone and I had a missed call and a voicemail from Liam Fogarty.

The rest was actually very routine: I prepared my notes, checked my dictaphone, met him and got my second story ready for the website but unlike my first I had the stress and anxiety of waiting for publication; a feeling I didn’t enjoy but I’ll have to get used to.

Fortunately that was covered somewhat by further interview prospects: Liberal Party candidate Steve Radford and Liverpool Independent Jeff Berman. On a Wednesday, I was tasked to have these ready to go for Monday. I was somewhat apprehensive, it seemed a big ask, but again I refer to my somewhat poorly-formed proverb above.

They actually fell very neatly in place and both where very enjoyable experiences now I had shook the first interview nerves.

As count night loomed I was informed I was reporting on the count both for JMU Journalism and the Liverpool Echo, which would an involve contributions to their live online blog that what was happening at the count venue via Twitter.

I have to say, 140 characters never seemed so short or daunting. But to go from a first year student with little expectation to interviewing candidates and live blogging for the local paper is undoubtedly a buzz with lessons learned along the way, and a desire to do much, much more.

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About Patrick Arnold, JMU Journalism