Behind the Scenes: UniVersal covers Clinton


‘Open your bag please’ A brief but thorough search is given, then we’re through security, past the doors and into the foyer. People are stood around in groups; some young, some old but all with an air of anticipation. Some go to buy coffees, others chat to companions and a few flit around the room, networking. Finally, we are allowed into the seating area.

Onstage, two elegant studded armchairs are bathed in a pool of light, luxurious grey velvet cushions placed carefully upon them. There is the click-click as several photographers snap their very professional and weighty looking cameras, the indivisible hubbub of over 2,000 people making their way to their seats.

Either side of me, notebooks are drawn out of bags, pens given an experimental scribble and pictures are quickly taken of the empty stage, oh-so-carefully set up. Tweets are promptly tapped out, and others re-tweeted where they are picked up at the newsroom and carefully compiled.

In the days leading up to this, a plethora of emails have been sent back and forth; plans have changed, ideas have been pitched and articles have been written.

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It’s a big deal, someone with such a status coming to town. And it’s not every day that the opportunity to cover someone as big as Hillary Clinton comes along.

It requires a fair amount of planning and pre-thought, to generate enough articles beforehand to give a solid grounding for what we report on the day, and to alert readers that we will be covering the event.

On the day, we arrive and are given lanyards with our names on, entry tickets and wristbands. We are shown to our pre-assigned seats, sat with other members of industry, all here to report back on the event for their respective organisations.

As time goes on, people settle into their places, first impressions are scribbled down and anticipation builds. This anticipation is soon turned into a groan, however, as we learn that Hillary is around an hour late. Naturally, another coffee comes to mind and soon around half the audience is on their way back to the foyer.

During this time, some interesting people emerge – we manage to get an interview from a ‘super fan’, snapping his picture and tweeting him holding up his heart-shaped ‘Hillary’ sign wrapped in fairy lights. We also spot someone with a ‘make America great again’ cap, so it’s a mixed audience to say the least.

Eventually, the time arrives and, following journalist Mariella Frostrup, the lady herself walks onstage. Again, a quick video is taken and tweeted; to be picked up back in the newsroom and added to the running live blog.

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Throughout the interview, tweets are quickly typed and pens are firmly to paper taking down quotes, reactions, impressions. The notes are scrawled and probably only legible to their writer – especially the shorthand being written beside me. Our reporter Jade Padam is even given the chance to ask Hillary a question herself.


Once it’s all over we wait for the audience to leave – our day is not over yet.

We are next shown to the panoramic suite, given a glass of wine on arrival and find ourselves in a room with all the event organisers, other journalists and council officials.

After quickly having a bite to eat (Hillary being late meant that everyone’s tummies were grumbling that bit more) we set to work interviewing people about the event, what it was like to attend or organise, and what it meant for Cheltenham.

Once we had filmed and spoken to as many as we could (including recording our own reactions), it was time to head back to the newsroom to edit the footage. Clips and interviews were cut, refined and neatly packaged together to be sent to other newsrooms across the West Country. Once everything had been sent off, there was a collective sigh of relief. ‘Well done everyone!’, ‘Good job’, ‘We did it!’.

As you can imagine, covering an event like this was challenging, exciting and rewarding, and something that is so different when you experience it from a journalist’s perception. Quotes aren’t just applauded; they are scribbled down, analysed for their relevance and importance, and shared across our platforms. Pictures aren’t just snapped to friends; they are edited and used to head articles, add to tweets and involve readers. The experience isn’t just enjoyed; it is interacted with and learned from too.


If you fancy covering a story from behind the scenes, and trying out some of the experiences we’ve talked about here, why not join up to Universal and help provide, fun, engaging and informative content for your peers? Drop us an email at or send us a tweet @uoguniversalnews

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