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.


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