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.


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