Fright Night

Steven Atkins reports on Leeds Student Radio’s election coverage night at Old Bar, describing how a fun night quickly turned sour as the results rolled in.

Preparation into election night on LSR had been going on for months. I joined the student radio team with only a matter of weeks to go before the fateful 8th November. ‘All American’ playlists had to be created, packages had to be produced and briefings had to made. The LSR election night team worked relentlessly trying to showcase the twists and turns of American democracy and all that it had to offer; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Election night soon arrived. Old Bar was buzzing, the place felt electric. It felt as though history was on the horizon, we just had to get through a long, dark night first. Students came from near and afar to take part in the pre-election pub quiz. The election night team had our huddle for one final time. Our heads of news, Lauren and James, told us how all our hard work had been building up to this. This was our time to shine. At 11pm, LSR came alive and election night began.

CNN may have been on the TV screens in Old Bar yet it was LSR that the students of Leeds wanted to hear. We had a roundtable of presenters going through incoming results, giving instant reaction to news that was being given and providing concrete analysis, clarifying what candidates had to do in order to win the White House.

The party atmosphere was very much present, with people cheering and booing along as projections were being made. Upbeat music was playing out of the speakers in between Trump and Hillary wins. I was on ‘the decision desk’ with Chad, informing our presenters with real-time information that could be broadcast whilst waiting for further results to come in. Everything was running smoothly, everything was going to plan. Then it was my time to go on air.

Myself, James, Georgia and Raees took over at 3am. Results were coming in thick and fast. Hillary’s path to victory was rapidly narrowing. The mood in the room started to turn quite quickly. As night became day, reality started to dawn. Old Bar was still positive but the life of the party had quietly died. At 4am, after five hours of broadcasting Lauren, Chad, Lance, Dave and I moved upstairs to the studio for the final leg of our American journey.

By this point, the feeling was low and people were worrying. It soon became clear that the Apprentice star was to become the leader of the free world. It was hard to report at this stage. We as a team were tired, people were visibly upset. The falling of snow dampened people’s spirits in more ways than one.

Regardless of how you feel about the result, when you’re live on air, you’ve got to keep going. Working in the media is a marathon, not a sprint. Many journalists did a good job that night. Admittedly, it can be easy for many to get caught up in the excitement of political point scoring. Nevertheless, the point of journalism is to report the facts and explain the stories that shape us as a society, providing different perspectives on stories that need to be shared. It is a noble profession.

Despite all the hard work that went into covering election night on LSR, nothing could have prepared  us for what happened. The debate about what this result means will continue, the questions about what a Trump Presidency will bring remain unanswered, at least for a while. What we saw on election night, what the world witnessed when Trump won, will have an everlasting effect on politics and society as a whole. But what is clear, what I know, is that the LSR election night team delivered last week and we did ourselves proud.

Steven Atkins

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