Ben Blissett, TLDR News (left) and Ash Sarkar, Novara Media (right) on YouTube

Credit: Screenshots via TLDR News and Novara Media

The UK general election 2024 threw up a historic result: Labour won by a landslide majority as the Conversatives were punished by the electorate.

There were plenty of shock results, surprise outcomes and big headlines, too. Journalists up and down the country pulled overnight shifts to cover the results as they emerged and to prepare their audience for the major headlines in the morning.

Journalism.co.uk spoke with three very sleep-deprived people at three new media companies about their approaches and experiences on election night. Responses have been edited for brevity.


One of those was Novara Media, a left-wing partisan news channel, which livestreamed the results on their website and YouTube from 9:30 pm - 5 am. At the time of writing, the video has amassed 170k views on YouTube. Contributing editor Ash Sarkar, who was one of the presenters on the show.

Q: How were you feeling in the morning?

AS: I had not been to sleep all night: delirious and finding the stupidest things really funny on X (Twitter). There is an absurdity in British politics that you do not get in other countries and it comes to the fore on election day.

Q: What was your plan of attack going into the election?

AS: We had our biggest livestream ever and it is the third time we have done what we call our #ElectionSesh.

The first one we did was in a horrible, sweaty room in Peckham, in London, which became more clammy and smelly as the night went on. This time, we have a lovely control room, a green room, two rooms to film in.

The Communication Workers Union also lent us a lot of expensive equipment and we increased our freelancing, which was reflected in the quality of our output. I feel so proud of our team.

Q: Did you feel fatigued as the night went on or energised by the results?

AS: When we started getting surprise results - pro-Gaza independent candidates, Jeremy Corby re-elected as an independent, The Green Party getting a record four seats - the energy was building through the night. That is where working with intelligent people you genuinely like makes all the difference.

You do not feel that tired until you get home and you realise you cannot form sentences.

Q: Novara Media is a left-wing media company. How do you square that against covering an election?

AS: We were formed out of the student media movement and we have been branded as 'Corbynistas'. But actually, we have a political mission more to do with socialism, less to do with a single party or individual.

We are now putting a lot more resources towards hard, exclusive news gathering. We are interested in holding powerful corporate interests to account, but that does not mean sacrificing accuracy or fairness in reporting.

The big election story of the "crumbling of the blue wall" - Conservative strongholds like Worthing gained by Labour - is a beat that our founder Aaron Bastani has been on for ages, looking back to changes within Worthing Council. He has been saying: "Mark my words, this is going to be a big story, the Tories will not be able to hold onto the southern seats they used to."

So, people perceive us as having a left-wing, student focus - which we do have a bit of that - but we have talented individuals who are identifying key shifts before they happen.

Q: How do you get the most out of livestreams for an election?

AS: One of the benefits of the livestream format is that you are freer than in conventional broadcast because there, you are always fighting the ad breaks and it is very scripted down to the last minute.

But in politics, there is always something unexpected and chaotic, so you have to fill the space somehow. My colleagues and I have a rapport and understanding of each other which makes people feel more included in the conversation

So we used 'superchats' - a member perk that pins their comment in the livestream - which we read out and discuss. It allows for a bit more dialogue and responsiveness with you and the audience in real-time. It is way more dynamic.

Q: What is the political story to watch now?

AS: The country is crying out for investment, and the Labour manifesto did not give much away on where the money would be coming from. There is a pervasive national decline happening, and we want to know if this new government will do anything meaningful with its clear majority.

Explainer videos

TLDR News has grown its brand on YouTube for explainer videos, unpicking the political news of the day. By 9 am, Ben Blissett, head of livestreams and podcasts and lead writer, had put out a video explaining the UK election results, which at the time of writing has more than 460k views.

Q: How were you feeling in the morning?

BB: Good, but sleepless. Elections come around only once every few years and it is exciting to watch it all unfold. As far as elections go, how often do you get a change of government in such drastic terms? Not to mention all the independents surpassing our expectations, even for us who have been covering it for weeks.

Q: There were a few changes to the exit poll throughout the night. How much did you need to rely on it to get a headstart on the video?

I relied a lot on the exit poll which made it very tricky throughout the night because it was revised as much as it was, but in the end, it was mostly correct.

It was only going to be out for a few seats, so the overall message and structure were pretty much the same: of this being the worst Conservative defeat ever, it was always going to fall under the 156 seats in 1906. The Labour one was more tricky because beating the seat share of 1997 was not guaranteed.

The real complication was with Reform UK because 13 seats, as was initially projected, would have been phenomenal for a starting party with no prior footing. That was the shock in the exit poll and I dedicated a big section to that, but obviously, it turned out to be four seats, which is still significant - but not as significant as 13.

Q: How fast did you put together your video?

BB: A typical explainer video takes between five-to-eight hours, depending on how much animation, scriptwriting, recording and production is needed.

Last night had to be done a bit more efficiently though, we had the skeleton script prepared and the key bits that were unchanging already animated. We updated the script after our initial livestream at 11 am, the animator picked it up in the early hours of the morning, and I popped into the morning at 6 am to record the final parts and upload it by 9 am, which is actually a normal release time for us.

Q: And happy with the response?

BB: Definitely, 116k views in less than three hours is a remarkably well-performing video from our end. Then again, given its about an election, we would expect it to do well and it makes the all-nighter definitely worth it.

Q: What is your advice for putting together an explainer video quickly?

BB: Have an expectation of how the night will go, but expect volatility. That is why we enjoy elections after all. I expected more smooth sailing than there was, but we got there in the end.

Q: What is the political story to watch now?

BB: What does the Starmer government do now? We have not had a Labour government in 14 years. There has been a lot of apathy towards Starmer and what he stands for, so we can explain that.

We definitely have an eye on the next Conservative leadership election and there will be attention on who could replace Sunak were he to lose that. Also, Scotland, the broader decline of the SNP and what this means for independence in Scotland. That is another route to go down and something else to explain. People have known for months the outcome of this election, and now we think about what is next.


Michael MacLeod runs two Substack newsletters, The Edinburgh Minute and The London Minute. He had the round-up of the major headlines in his audiences' inboxes by 7 am.

Q: How were you feeling in the morning?

MM: It is not my first election, my first was in 2010 as a stringer for the BBC. I have learned over the years about pacing myself and not getting carried away with early rumours.

Q: What is the aim with your newsletters and what was your aim in particular in covering the election?

MM: The idea of the Minute newsletters is to link to as much local news as possible. Typically, I check 40 tabs a morning for Edinburgh and 100 tabs for London, and that is full of journalists, indie publishers and specific community groups. I aim to highlight 20 news stories a day, but have no problem admitting when it is a slower news day.

For the election, my plan in advance was to check to see which BBC Local Democracy Reporters (LDRs) were on the ground, so I could follow them online and tell readers to follow them, too.

There are lots of LDRs in London and the one in Edinburgh, Donald Turvill, who works for Edinburgh Live has so much energy for it and the contacts.

There are 33 boroughs in London, and readers are likely to only care about the areas they live and maybe work in. So I tried to concentrate on the major gains in my top lines.

Q: What were you paying attention to on election night, then?

MM: I was watching Channel 4 on TV for the exit polls, but then swapped to the BBC later on. I had the BBC Scotland stream on my laptop because it was mentioning Edinburgh a lot as there were lots of tight seats.

I had 5 Live on my headphones, my Twitter lists open and was also looking at council websites for updates throughout the night. I also follow a lot of local photographers on Instagram and sourced some pictures from them with permission.

Q: What is the essential need-to-know when creating a newsletter?

MM: Parting with email addresses is a stronger display of trust than a website visit. The inbox is one of the last safe places on the internet for some people, so I try to stay as neutral as I can and give people a sentence or two about what has happened.

I have a literal rule of thumb. This means that every swipe on a phone should show some new text and information. If it does not, you need to cut it down.

Q: What is the political story to watch now?

MM: For me, it is the future of the BBC Local Democracy Reporter Scheme in Labour’s hands. We have not heard anything about this.

I think they deserve to be paid more, we need more of them. I would pay more tax if it meant employing more reporters, I really do believe they are that important. The amount I relied on them last night exposed that, otherwise you are just relying on councils to give out the numbers.

Without them, we would have far less coverage and a lot of important stories would have been missed.

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