Jonathan Openshaw – Life & Arts internship – 11.05.09 to 29.05.09

Friday 29 May 2009

Having been interviewed for this internship on London’s ‘snow day’ back in February (when the capital’s transport system ground to a clunking halt under the weight of four centimetres of slush) I had the impression that the Financial Times was a huge building full of computers but devoid of staff.

Seeing the FT in full swing on my first morning set the record straight however. Two other interns joined on the same day, and we waited quietly in the lobby overlooked by a bronze bust of Brendan Bracken as purposeful people bustled past. An editorial assistant then welcomed us and gave a tour of the different departments, which are spread across open plan floors with signs above each desk – evoking something of the supermarket, except instead of ‘tinned produce’ and ‘dairy’ they read ‘Ignites Europe’ and ‘FTFM’. Banks of monitors also stood at intervals around each floor, with rolling news and data flicking across them. Amongst this slick set-up, it was reassuring to notice the occasional human touch, such as a wall of clocks set to the main financial time zones – Tokyo, New York and Pratts Bottom.

Already getting the impression of a finely tuned media machine, we were bundled into the Monday morning editorial conference, where the desk heads held forth on all things financial. As a Life & Arts intern, much of this proved impenetrable, but I got the impression of global agenda being set by supremely competent and confident individuals, which was quite inspiring.

I was on more familiar territory once I moved on to the Life & Arts desk itself, and having worked at a couple of magazines and newspapers before I settled into the regular duties of fact checking and basic research jobs. Everyone was really welcoming however, and it was soon made clear that you could be as involved as you wanted to be. I pitched a few ideas to the FT Magazine, a couple of which were accepted, and Life & Arts also set me to researching and writing some fact boxes and side-bars. I never thought that I would get a by-line in the FT from this internship, let alone several by-lines on topics as varied and interesting as Tracey Emin, child psychology, Charles Saatchi, language extinction and deadly mountains…

Another advantage of an FT internship is the location, the building being sandwiched between culture (the Tate Modern) and food (Borough Market). It was rumoured that people also went for jogs along the bank of the Thames during lunch hour (the building has excellent showers), and the winding lanes and cobbled streets would certainly provide a picturesque route. I was content to wander through them with a freshly roast pork and stuffing baguette however.

Overall, this was a fantastic opportunity to work with people that are great at what they do, but who are also happy for you to contribute and most importantly to teach you as you go.

Mid-term report, by Daniel Igra

Friday 22 May 2009

I’ve spent a sizeable chunk of the past year doing work experience as part of my postgrad journalism studies. Some of it has been fairly average – on occasions my tea-making and sandwich-buying abilities have developed more than my reporting. Some of it has been good. My time at the FT ranks at the very top.

On my first morning I was given a tour of the offices, taken to morning conference – where the editor picked out the highlights and lowlights of the day’s paper and heard pitches from desk editors for the following day’s – before being introduced to everyone on the world desk, where I was to be stationed for the next six weeks.

Attention is paid to interns here. By the same token they are expected to push themselves and make sure they’re not forgotten about.

I’m into week four of my time now and am starting to feel like a proper member of the team. I’m given real responsibility helping edit web copy and publish stories online. This week I’ve stood in for the desk researcher, selecting briefs for the newspaper (which vary according to each regional edition) and liaising with the stats team to build charts to accompany pieces on anything from Taiwanese GDP to the European Parliament elections. I go to the world team’s huddle every morning, a mini version of the morning conference but with a few more jokes. And I’m involved as the pace quickens when deadlines start to loom in the afternoon.

One of the best parts about my time at the FT is that I don't really have a "day in the life". I do new things every day. And fortunately very little tea-making and sandwich-buying.

A month on the UK Companies Desk by Rachel O'Neill

Tuesday 19 May 2009

The huge F and T on the wall of the building across Southwark Bridge, was appropriately imposing, and left me in no doubt that I was heading to the right place- I strode forward excited about the month ahead.

I spent my time on the UK Companies desk and from the outset was treated as a proper reporter. One of my first assignments was to write 500 words on the story so far of Innocent Smoothies. I really enjoyed interviewing the founder, Richard Reed. He seemed keen to talk to the FT and I was a little starstruck to be both representing them, and talking to him.

When the piece was in the paper that weekend I shyly bragged to my friends, who I made read it online.

I wrote lots of online stories which I loved. Business bigwigs eagerly made time in their busy schedules for the FT and I spoke to a number of CEOs of high profile companies. I felt a secret glee that little did they know I was a mere intern hiding behind the authoritative brand.

I wrote about a range of companies from Carpetright, the flooring retailer, to Regal Petroleum, an energy company. It was a treat to use my profile as an FT journalist to speak to analysts on their thoughts about what the results, or event in question meant for the company.

My friends who are analysts talk about what they do in jargon littered brief. I was excited to gain an actual insight into what they worry about all day.

My biggest task was to write an 800 word regional focus story on Wales and I really enjoyed speaking to lots of different people and crafting the piece. The editor went through it patiently with me and helped me improve it.

In all, I was flattered that no one once expected me to do anything trivial. I was treated as a journalist and given things to write rather than facts to check, meaningless research to do or tea to make.

The other highlight of spending time at the FT was the people I met. Everyone I spoke to was quick to answer my questions, and happy to offer advice and help. I really enjoyed learning about how people had got where they were and gleaning nuggets of wisdom which will hopefully help me in my future career.

If you, like me, like serious, comprehensive news coverage you’ve got to get an internship at the FT. It’s full of bright, alert, interesting people whose conversations make great eavesdropping and is an outfit which is more than ahead of what’s going on in the world.

Week 3 on the Energy Desk by Max Hogg

Never having stepped inside a newspaper’s offices before, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I joined the Energy desk for a four week internship on 27th April.

Three weeks in and I am racing around London on my bicycle attending press conferences, conducting telephone interviews in St. James Square and trying to decipher impenetrable industry jargon about energy efficient lightbulbs.

I’m not a journalist (or even a trainee one); my interests lie in sustainable development – not a topic that gets a universally warm reception at the FT. So the past few weeks has been all about learning on the job. What makes a good story? How to dissect industry chatter and ask the tough questions in a press conference? How on earth do I meet a 4pm deadline for copy whilst also writing a couple of blog articles and summarising the day’s energy news?

It’s the Energy Source blog that has made the Energy desk the perfect place to conduct my internship. With less of an emphasis on scoops and more on specialist knowledge, and without the space constraints of the paper, I have been able to hone my writing style and explore stories of interest, with articles being published daily.

My mentor and colleagues have worked hard to help me fit in and meet a variety of well-known names on the paper. I was particularly interested in understanding how the FT’s leaders are written so was thrilled to sit in on a leader conference. I must admit, though, that even with an economics degree I struggled to follow some of what was being discussed!

In such a fast-paced and varied environment making a success of the internship has depended on sticking my neck out, taking a few risks and putting myself in situations where I have not always felt entirely comfortable, such as a one-on-one industry briefing, where I was expected to know much more about the topic than I did. It’s these situations that have taught me a great deal about journalism at such a prestigious institution as the FT, and it is these situations that will stick in my mind as the highlights of a highly enjoyable month.

A different kind of internship by Sujata Das

Friday 8 May 2009

I was surprised and delighted to be offered an internship at a prestigious publication so soon after taking the leap into a career change, having nurtured journalistic aspirations over several years of working in commerce and law - this was a chance to learn from those considered to be among some of the best in their profession.
The first morning consisted of a whistle-stop tour of the offices and introductions, the opportunity to meet in the flesh some of the writers whose thoughts I read regularly, followed by an invitation to sit in on the morning’s editorial conference. Expecting lengthy discussions and wrangling, it turned out to be surprisingly quick and tension-free.

I had been granted a placement with the legal correspondent in the public policy team, who asked me what I wanted to work on and tried to involve me in any activity which could help my development as a would-be journalist – from interviews with high-ranking police chiefs and law firm partners, watching court proceedings and attending press conferences on crime, to lunches with senior lawyers.
My mentors at FT have been generous with their time, advice and practical help, offering to introduce me to the editors of the sections of the publication which I’d expressed an interest in contributing to, urging me to develop my ideas and giving me the confidence to pitch them.

Within a couple of days I was invited to investigate, interview and write a piece – to my surprise my first sidebar earned a byline in the next day’s edition – an experience topped only by getting a front page mention the following week (in reality most of the credit belonged to colleagues, graciously sharing the recognition).

Most enjoyable of all – to someone seeking a vocation which can be anything as long as it isn’t mundane – was the variety of subjects which we covered: legal sector restructurings, corporate fraud, City policing, a high-profile divorce case, bankruptcy, a corporate social initiative from a law firm, share sale scams. I have even been able to spend some time watching how the UK and International news desks work (a different world).

This experience has taught me much in a short time – observing skillful reporters formulate a story from inception into engaging and relevant copy, witnessing their thought processes as they manoeuvre an interview to find the real story behind the apparent one, watching the editorial decision-making process at first-hand – all invaluable insights, and has made my time at FT both interesting and rewarding.