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.


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