Rotation, Rotation, Rotation by Abadesi Osunsade

Thursday 23 July 2009

The first weeks of my editorial internship

One might think that an internship at the world-renowned Financial Times would be a somewhat daunting affair. One would be wrong. The initial, and natural, nervousness a newcomer feels upon arrival will be allayed by the friendly welcomes of FT staff. Working alongside esteemed journalists should leave an intern with comparably lacking experience paralysed by humility and, perhaps, admiration. Yet I found that as an intern I slotted neatly into the workings of the machine, and was given real responsibility from the word ‘go’, backed by words of encouragement. As an FT intern, there will be no photocopying, no tedious admin tasks and no making cups of tea – although a kind sub-editor may offer to fetch you one.

My three month stint began at the Media desk, where I was most intimidated by the financial jargon being casually thrown around in conversations, and in the dozens of pages of analysts’ reports I was asked to read. Note wisely: will be your new best friend. My first assignment was an informal lunch meeting on Regent Street with a CEO. Shadowing my ‘boss’, the telecoms editor, was like a ‘baptism of fire’ as the gentlemen I met exclaimed when they realised it was only my first day. “First day and a free lunch? Not bad, eh?” Not bad at all. I returned to the office to attempt writing my first ‘FT-style’ news story. I used to be an Editor for my student newspaper but this was my first foray into financial reporting. Gladly I was given helpful feedback and later in the week got my first by-line. The count soon went from one to three, and by the end of my first week I already felt like a real reporter.

After my two exciting weeks at Media, where I also attended the press launch of the Palm Pre (the media dubbed ‘iPhone killer’), had an 8 am breakfast interview with a managing director (try eating whilst writing responses, it is very difficult), and helped design a diagram to explain how the internet works, I moved to my next desk – UK News. UK News, unlike Media, is situated in the hustle and bustle of the main newsroom. The day begins with the Editorial Conference, and not long after the news team meets to decide what stories to pursue, what angle to take and where in the first pages of the paper the stories will go. If it’s a good news day, we’ll have a juicy scoop. To coincide with a news story on the White Paper on social care for the elderly, I was sent to do vox-popping in idyllic Christchurch, Dorset. I felt a bit like a foreign correspondent having never ventured that far west before. I returned to report my findings to my Editor and wrote a news story for the web. My next desk will be Markets and I wait in fervent anticipation of what experiences it will bring.

Decisions to be made on the World News Desk

The World Desk offers a firsthand perspective into the increasing complexity of print and online news production - only on a scale that makes the experience truly one of a kind. And as someone who has worked only in newsrooms in the United States, I was eager to experience a different news environment.

As one of the busiest and most content-diverse sections of the FT paper and website, World has the responsibility of managing international coverage for the FT’S print editions distributed worldwide while also balancing the increasing competitive pressures of getting news online.

Throughout the day, the desk’s regional editors (Americas, Asia-Pacific, Middle East-Africa, and Europe) liaise with correspondents around the world while editing copy, planning graphics and preparing articles for the FT’s four editions: Asia, Europe, Americas (United States) and the final United Kingdom edition. And as many readers migrate to Web-based news outlets, the FT is aggressively pushing a “web-first” mentality of getting the news to readers’ eyes faster than ever before.

One interesting aspect of the internship is sitting in on the paper’s editorial conferences and World Desk “huddles,” where the paper’s top editors for all sections conduct a post-mortem of the previous day’s edition and discuss the news agenda for the following day. The paper’s top editor leads the meeting.

News judgement - what belongs in the newspaper, at what length and on which position on the page - is an important decision in itself. But the discussion becomes even more interesting when considerations must be made for what readers of four different editions - not to mention online readers and blogsters - are interested in. Should a story on Iceland’s application for accession to the European Union appear in the Asia edition? Maybe/maybe not in Asia, but certainly in Europe and UK. Those are the types of issues debated, sometimes hotly, among World Desk editors daily.

My specific role has been to keep an eye on the newswires for any breaking news, and to assist with updating articles on It’s not likely you’ll get to do any writing or reporting on this Desk - after all, most of the news they cover is happening elsewhere - but you can still get your hands on a variety of different things.

Which leads me to my main piece of advice any one interested in an internship at the World Desk: do not be afraid to ask around if any one, whether it’s a regional editor or someone on the online team, needs help. Like most internships in the newspaper industry, you will be welcomed warmly at the FT but not spoon-fed when it comes to work. The staff are simply too busy to always help you; it is usually hectic for editors from the moment they land at their desk in the morning to the time the last filed story is sent for layout. So keep your eyes, ears and mind open to lend a hand.

Elizabeth Tyler's internship

My day starts at 9.30, when I join the last leg of the commuter rush. I don’t have to be in the office until 10ish which seems extremely luxurious, with friends on city internships strictly 8 til (very) late.
It is difficult to describe a ‘typical’ day on the Life and Arts desk; activity varies daily, with a marked increase in fluster and excitement as the deadline (Thursday evening) approaches. There isn’t the constant stress of a daily news desk, which seems to allow a more forward looking, in-depth approach to cultural life in the UK and abroad. Detail and quality are everything.
Emails must be checked as soon as I get in, just in case any tasks have been thought of overnight. Having negotiated the computer and email system (with which I seem to have interminable problems) I start ringing various publishing houses to get drafts of soon to be released books; some are more helpful than others…Quite a contrast to my colleagues in the office, all of whom seem convincingly keen to get me involved and show me how the pages are made.
I have only made one cup of tea so far (debunking many an internship myth), and this was for Simon Schama, therefore making it one of the most exciting cups of tea I think I have ever made(a little bit of milk, no sugar). Coming in to contact with big names and frightfully important people has become somewhat quotidian, even if this contact is normally very distant and PR-mediated. As well as battering down the metaphorical door of film directors and famed journalists I get to sit in on various meetings that happen throughout the week. It’s fascinating to see the paper taking shape and plans being made for the weeks ahead. My comments are welcomed, especially in the smaller meetings which seem to bubble along in sparks of inspiration from all involved. It’s so exciting to feel part of such a process.
Writing has not been too far off the agenda either, with a semi-commission coming in the shape of a sidebar in my first week. Despite it not making the paper I was taken through it step by step in a conscientious attempt to improve my writing style, and am now working towards my next, interview piece.
Boredom is rarely a problem in the Life and Arts office. Even post, (which has to be opened by someone) provides entertainment, with numerous and sometimes painfully hopeful invitations, season programmes and book lists piling up on a daily basis.
Learning new skills every day, meeting inspiring people and experiencing the realities of journalism have made my time here invaluable and provided me with a much stronger base from which to spring into life after university (shudder). If only 4 weeks was just a little bit longer.

Markets Internship by Sneha Kotecha

Friday 10 July 2009

For any second year university student, the summer holidays are usually spent interning somewhere, as panicked twenty year olds realise it’s time to figure what to do with their lives. “The beauty about a degree in Economics is that you can then go on to do anything,” my careers teacher once told me. But for me, therein lies the problem. With no real idea of what I want to do, the one thing I wanted from my internship was the opportunity to see how my degree could be put into practice, and that made the FT the perfect place to be.

It was my responsibility to cover the Asia-Pacific markets with a fellow correspondent in Tokyo; a task which seemed thoroughly daunting at first, but proved to be very helpful in terms of developing my understanding of the world’s most dynamic region’s markets. Compiling the report required me to analyse which indexes were the biggest movers and why. The thing I found most interesting was how everything was interlinked; for example, during my first week, poor US non-farm payroll figures were released. The knock-on effect was that the Asian markets fell the next day, as investors around the world thought the data indicated that the worst of the recession may not be over. This really emphasised for me how we truly do live in a globalised world.

Another one of my jobs was to update the FTSE 100 online report throughout the day. I found this particularly exciting because it was fascinating to see how the opening of the US markets at 2:30pm and its subsequent trading session could cause the direction of the FTSE to change. More than anything, it highlighted the key skill any successful journalist should have- the ability to cope with the ever-changing nature of the job.

Apart from the obvious thrill of seeing my articles published in the world’s most prestigious paper, the main highlight for me had to be just simply being in the newsroom and observing how everything came together, with a simple suggestion for an article from a reporter turning into a fully-fledged piece of analysis by the next day.

Overall, interning at the FT was everything I expected and more. The continual support throughout the internship made the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable and gave me the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the financial world. The dynamic atmosphere is one which I can really see myself working in in the future, as every day is different to the last and there is always more to read and investigate. One thing I’ve realised is that you will never be able to know everything about the world of finance, but a career at the FT is definitely the best place to try and find out!

Alphaville Internship by Joshua Benson

Friday 3 July 2009

Although the internship was only for a short period - just two weeks, the brief insight into how the Financial Times operates has provided me with invaluable experience. I arrived at the FT as a first year economics student with a desire to acquire a greater depth of knowledge about the current economic climate. Working on the Alphaville desk was perfect for this. Although my work did not directly link to the global downturn, the continuous flow of laconic articles that filtered through the Alphaville blog everyday, served me with all the information I needed in order to gain a fuller understanding of the current situation.

In terms of my own work, I undertook some research into the sudden influx of Russian IPOs that occurred before the economic decline. This involved gathering a number of initial price offering prospectus documents from various Russian companies. There had been a suggestion that the London Stock Exchange had shown a degree of leniency to some of these companies when granting their listing. The project provided me with the chance to e-mail or speak the companies directly or, if that failed, contact the brokers or FSA

To induce reader discussion, these articles were posted up on the Alphaville Long Room. This was done in an attempt to encourage readers to post their own views, possibly providing us with some further acumen into the dealings of Russian IPOs, which could possibly help with our research.

This task provided me with an introduction to a very interesting area of economics I had never touched on before. Constantly being spoon fed economic theories for an education – not to say these aren’t incredibly important as a basis for any career in the field, it came as a welcome break to get the opportunity to see ‘economics in action’.

Other than the obvious delight of being able to contribute to the Alphaville site, one other personal highlight included witnessing the Alphaville team claim a ‘scoop’ in the final week. The sudden injection of adrenalin around the area was fascinating to observe especially in what had been an apparently quiet week. The story expanded beyond the Alphaville desk and was my first experience of seeing the different FT departments coming together to report the story. Prior to that I was surprised and amazed how separate each department was. However this was clearly a beneficial factor as the organisational aspect of the company was unmistakable.

Undecided as to which direction my career will follow once I graduate, the FT internship has certainly opened my eyes to the possibility of journalism, especially in the financial sector. Nonetheless, wherever it leads there is no doubt that the two weeks working on the Alphaville desk have been priceless and I am sure the experience will provide a fantastic asset in the future.

Interning at the World by Oladipo Salimonu

The Financial Times World News desk is the epicentre of the paper and its newsroom. It has more team members than does any other desk and is constantly abuzz with activity as stories and ideas are bounced around.

Joining it can be a baptism of fire for even seasoned journalists from much smaller papers. Coming from such a paper and with hardly any seasoning to speak of, I was to be at the desk for a month. I was not sure what to expect. I have always had a great respect for the paper and consider it the best in the world. And no matter what the folks at the New York Times say, I think they know it too.

My first day there started with a morning conference chaired by the FT editor, Lionel Barber. Held every weekday morning, the conference begins with Barber’s (or in his absence, deputy editor Martin Dickson’s) take on the previous day’s issue. This is followed by section editors giving their planned features for the three editions of the four regional editions that will constitute the day’s effort.

After the conference, I quickly discovered that being an intern at the World desk is akin to being in a bubble in the middle of New York’s Grand Central Station. Everyone is busy and you are not quite sure whether, who or how to join. I was called upon from time to time but spent more time twiddling my thumbs than gripping a pen with them. That was more my fault than anyone else’s, though.

The great irony about my stay at the FT is that the invaluable experience it provided me has nothing to do with writing or editing. I still do not know how the paper is produced, and maybe that is best. “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”, Bismarck’s maxim, comes to mind. I saw and heard page editors on the phone a lot but still marvelled the next day I looked through the paper as to where it all came from and how it ended up there. Like a Charlie Parker solo, I would tell myself, it must have simply appeared, fully formed.

As one who prefers business to journalism, the abiding lesson that I will take away from the FT is of how organization and well thought out systems make the impossible possible every day. So smooth and efficient is the process that an incredible product comes through daily but with a minimum of fuss. I found everybody at the desk very competent and genuinely nice. I appreciate newly the importance of smart and capable people to any successful, world class organization. It was a fascinating study in people, who work well with each other and can be depended on. Not uncooperative and unpredictable, like the faucets in the first floor men’s rooms.