First Weeks as a Weekend Magazine Intern, Susannah Snider

Monday 22 June 2009

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.


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