Katrina Bishop’s UK News Desk Experience, June 2009

Monday 22 June 2009

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of my internship on the FT’s UK News desk was actually sitting at the UK News desk.

At the centre-front of the news room, the desk produces the first pages of every FT edition, and as such is a constant hub of discussion. Sat next to the UK news editors and overhearing constant agenda-setting decisions being made is an experience I have never had in any other news room, and am unlikely to experience again any time soon.

After I had managed to stop listening to every conversation that occurred on the desk, I was put to work. Interns attend the main morning conference on the first day – yet another amazing experience – and I was subsequently involved in the daily UK News meetings.

Unlike some news editors, the UK desk encouraged me to pitch my own ideas for news stories. They were eager to listen to any ideas I had, and when they liked a pitch would encourage me in writing it and advise me when needed.

When I wasn’t writing my own stories, or helping the editors directly (listing Sir Alan Sugar’s top business quotes was a humorous highlight) they allowed me to help out other sections.

Because of this, my days were never the same: one day I would help compile reading for Gideon Rachman’s blog; the next I would be up early, interviewing commuters; and another I would spend ringing up luxury hotels trying to barter prices for a story on the luxury price index.

As such it seems artificial to try and give a day in the life; the FT gives its interns as varied an experience as possible. My advice to anyone considering an internship at the FT? Prepare to be in awe of the newsroom, but prepare to get over it, work hard and relish the experience of working alongside some of the best journalists in the world.

First Weeks as a Weekend Magazine Intern, Susannah Snider

I arrived at the Financial Times offices flustered and overheated after having spent the better part of an hour wandering the labyrinthine alleys of Borough Market. Each wrong turn brought me across a new oddity—a debtors prison, a smelly fish market, even a full-sized replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon—before I finally ran into the black modern glass of the FT building.

After a whirlwind tour and an editors’ meeting, the editorial assistants showed me to my desk in the Weekend Magazine section. At lunchtime, my supervisor took me to a nearby café. We discussed what I hoped to get out of the internship over sandwiches and soup. I declared that I wanted to write, write, write. But I didn’t mind copy-editing or doing research.

The Weekend Magazine has proved to be the perfect place to develop my skills. It doesn’t share the frenetic energy of the newsroom, but the deadlines are strict and the editing is merciless. I have time to brainstorm, pitch, and write, and I feel useful. I work in a bank of desks alongside the editors, so I can always shout out questions or pick up extra work.

For the first few days I stuck to a schedule of fact-checking and brainstorming. By the end of the week, I acquired an interesting assignment: to interview Londoners who work with their hands and transcribe the discussions to accompany a photo essay.

I contacted mechanics, set designers, and gardeners and spent the next few weeks conducting interviews. I interviewed subjects over the phone and in person. My Financial Times email account filled with contacts and my phone was bombarded with calls. I worked up my own rhythm and self-direction.

After conducting the interviews, I edited them down to about 300 words and submitted them to my editor. Just moments ago, I was presented with a glossy mock-up of the dialogues with their accompanying photos. I read through my six interviews feeling proud of what I had accomplished. I had managed to get the workers to open up to me; a few of the interviews were quite funny, others were surprising and entertaining.

In addition to my interviews, I’ve had a pitch accepted for the Magazine’s Defining Moments section, which focuses on quirky but important moments in history. And I’m going to interview two inventors for the Meet the Maker column. Yes, I’m a busy intern, but I’m not getting tea or making photocopies, I’m writing for the Financial Times.

A Day in the world of Life & Arts: Liggie Pelekani

Thursday 18 June 2009

After a run in with an angry lady on a bicycle on the cobbled streets of Borough Market, I walked up the impressive steps of The FT building, the sun was shining and my nerves were jumping from my throat to my stomach. Once I was greeted by the welcoming editorial assistants my anxious stomach started to settle. We were given a whirlwind tour of the building before entering the Monday morning editorial meeting. Slowly people started to filter in to the impressive board room until it was filled with important, professional figures from the various FT departments including the editor himself, Lionel Barber. Hanging on to their every word, I was surprised to understand some elements of their discussion. I left feeling inspired and enthusiastic about my career ahead.

Following the meeting I was shown to the Life & Arts section to begin my month’s internship. I was pleased to be given some articles to research and fact check straight away. On my third day I was given my first writing opportunity, something I had never thought I would be doing so early on. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing my work in print in the next edition. I am also working on an exciting summer feature that will appear at the end of June, as well as having the chance to interview some extraordinary people. Everyone here makes really good use of you and it’s clear that they want you to get as much out of your time here as possible. I am in my second week and I have already learned so much. I am especially certain that I want to be in this industry for the rest of my career.

Everyone has been really friendly, there is a great atmosphere in the building and it is a fantastic place to work, especially due to the location. My daily walk to work from London Bridge via Borough Market is filled with food, drink, entertainment and plenty of energy and colour. A tip for the girls, try not to wear heels if you’re walking that way, it’s difficult to master, if a little dangerous on a wet day. Overall, I feel much better prepared and confident in my knowledge to go on and pursue my dream. I’m looking forward to finding out what lies ahead in my last two weeks.

Week 1 on the Media desk by Saskia Preston

Tuesday 9 June 2009

I began my editorial internship on the Media desk, working across the news sections of the telecommunications, advertising and broadcasting industries. I was immediately assured that this desk was at the beating heart of the FT and that it’s discreet location in a far corner of the editorial department, merely a nod to the grand human tradition of keeping our most important assets hidden from general view.

Satisfied with this explanation and evidenced by the world domination of trousers, I was quickly plunged into the work of a media correspondent, attending a press conference on my second day at the St. Martins Lane Hotel. I found the presence of mini-bagels and sliced melon had an immediately relaxing effect on me, such that I had never previously experienced around either, and after listening to the details of the recently struck deal between BSkyB and Xbox, I mustered up the courage to ask my first press conference question. It was a great privilege to be at the forefront of such a potentially exciting piece of technology news and to be able to engage so directly with some of the people responsible was fantastic.

Before returning to our desks in the beating heart, my colleague and I had to pitch the key story from the press conference to the UK News desk, the section of the paper deemed the most appropriate for the piece. This was a success and we began writing up the article which earned me my first by-line in the paper. I hadn’t expected this sort of achievement to colour my first week at the FT and I spent the following day wondering whether the purchase of mini-bagels would be too diminutive of a celebration. And all this despite the invitation to multi-consumption implied by the ‘mini-ness’.

It is clearly the issue of digital technology that is determining more and more of the media agenda and at my second press conference a couple of days later, we were discussing Digital Britain, the government white paper on the importance of universal broadband and public service broadcasting provision, amongst other issues. As we left the building my colleague turned to me and said ‘I didn’t promise you a press conference with a member of the cabinet in your first week, did I?’. Clearly he didn’t and meeting the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, far exceeded my expectations of the type of work I’d be involved in. Although having said that, it seems only appropriate that the heart of the FT should go straight to the heart of the government.

It is a testament to the mentors here that interns are given such a thorough and broad ranging insight into the experience of an FT journalist. Personally I’m finding everyone I work alongside to be patient, generous with their time and knowledge and wherever possible, completely inclusive.