Newsroom Diaries 2016: Covering the United States election


Editor's note: This article is part of a series of newsroom diaries by various members of the Firstpost team. These diaries will provide you with the journalist's recollections of a particular bit of news coverage in 2016 in which she/he was deeply involved.

The year 2016 with Firstpost was a roller coaster ride, it started out with the budget coverage and our rigorous coverage on the assembly elections — Tamil Nadu, Assam, Puducherry, Kerala and West Bengal — with 'Firstpost Decode'. It was a phenomenal experience to be part of a team that was pushing the boundaries of digital journalism and redefining what a digital newsroom looks like. 2016 was dramatic for me, at least as a new media journalist. I remember sauntering into office on (what I had hoped would be a lazy) Saturday, some much-deserved respite from all the 'breaking news', but I was to have none, as a coup was attempted in Turkey against state institutions, the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. That's the thing with being in the business of news, you don't get to have lazy Saturdays or lazy anyday. At Firstpost, there's barely a minute that goes by that's not dedicated to tracking important news globally and from all parts of India and at the risk of speaking for others, we would not have it any other way.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Reuters

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Reuters

The US election towards the end of 2016 was one of my most ambitious projects at Firstpost — it kicked my butt, gave me immense joy and also the most pain. I think I lived in the office for almost half a month. And if I was asked to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat. There is a different kind of joy that comes out of editorial work — almost unparalleled. It was a challenging task to capture the imaginations of readers in India and to also try and acquire a new readership abroad.

Editorially, we sketched out a coverage plan that would cover the drama and intrigue around the election through the campaigns, and candidate surrogates. We put in our best efforts to understand the manifestos, policy changes that each candidate wanted to bring about. My colleagues and I would come into work at 6 am (a huge shout out to Karan Pradhan, Harsh Pareek and Anshu Lal!) on debate nights to do a live coverage of the presidential debates. It was hard work and a tough task to get out of bed early in the morning to hear Donald Trump yell words like 'Yuge!', 'Bigly' and 'Nasty Woman', but necessary. It helped us realise that the election was increasingly putting the candidates in sharp focus. A terrifying game of words — he said, she said. What was meant to be policy driven became personality driven.

And, Donald Trump made for easy news. He wrapped it up in a beautiful ribbon and handed it over to the media. While it would have been an easy path to outrage on all the ridiculous things he said, we sought to find a critical voice that didn't fall into the regular trappings of a typical Trump coverage. We roped in a women's editor from the US — Padmini Parthasarathy — to write on Trump, write about the larger impact of his words. A host of other contributors from North America wrote engaging, analysis-based copies for our special US page. This was also an election where the millennials had a big role to play, our series — My idea of America — provided vignettes of what America means to its citizens and what young men and women seek from their politicians.


When you're handed a project like the US election, it is hard to not be 300 percent invested. The stories from another part of the world become your world. Following an election that showed the divisive politics and social matrix of a country that proclaims to be the 'Land of the Free' was exhausting. The American exceptionalism was not just showing cracks, it seemed like it was in a dilapidated state. The outcome wasn’t what I hoped for, as an objective journalist you’re never allowed to let your personal feelings come in the way of your work. It was a balancing act that I had aced. On election day, however, I did take a moment to just be myself and allowed myself to feel. It was about women, it was about the rise of the right, I knew how to feel, but there was a disconnect between what I should have been feeling and what I felt. What does the win mean? What does this mean for women? What does this mean for my American friends and family? Were people okay with calling a man who once said he should grab someone by the p***y, their president? It didn’t make sense. I wrote about my feelings and that's that, I was back to work.


Published Date: Dec 31, 2016 09:34 am | Updated Date: Dec 31, 2016 09:34 am



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