Behind the spotlight By Aura Sabadus

Tuesday 22 September 2009

If a news editor stops short on his way home after a day’s work and quickly makes for his computer to write one last punchy caption that would ‘flatter our readers’ you know his newspaper must be rather special

The thought may be of little consolation to David Crouch’s wife when he is late for supper, poring over reams of stories, double-checking their accuracy, knocking them into shape or, indeed, tweaking a caption.

But the thousands of readers who grab the FT off the shelves the following morning may rest assured that their purchase is a worthwhile piece of luxury.

Having shadowed for a week David and his fellow news editors, Sarah Neville and James Pickford who look after the UK section of the FT, I realise that the newspaper’s appeal is only half owed to the star writers and specialist correspondents who fill the pages every day. For the other half belongs with the unseen armies of designers, assistants, subs and editors whose motley backgrounds, ideas and painstaking work make the FT the quality broadsheet that it is.

What have I learnt so far? To look beyond the obvious.

When splashing out on a daily copy of the FT, readers do so for the immediate content. But it is, as David says, the ‘furniture’ of the newspaper - an unexpected picture, a witty caption, an eye-catching graphic that really pack a punch and enhance its reputation.

My overriding impressions? To appreciate the people behind the limelight whose enthusiasm and patience have not worn off despite the many years doing the same job.

Sitting with my back to the industrial-sized newsroom of the London FT headquarters, I imagine Horatio Bottomley, the debonair Victorian bounder and first proprietor of the newspaper, strolling between desks trying to make some sense of the impenetrable market data flicking on screens or the heavily-detailed business stories waiting their turn for publication.

Like an intern on his first day, he might not understand much, but somehow I have a feeling that his gargantuan ambitions would be pleasantly tickled.

The first week…Alex Cardno

Previous blogs from Financial Times interns have lamented the lack of menial tasks so often negatively associated with an internship. I am delighted to echo the same sentiment, one which leads me to this early observation:

National newspaper journalists are busy people. They do not spend a lot of time making cups of tea, nor do they spend hours bent over a photocopier. Internships at the Financial Times succeed because they are structured in such a way that the intern works as a Financial Times journalist.

This means that interns are expected to maintain the same high standards of work and productivity that full-time employees adhere to. The simplicity of the idea is breathtaking. If the intern can work to the high standards of the editorial team, that intern is more likely to succeed and is guaranteed to reap maximum benefit from their time spent here.

My first day, in what looks from the outside a very daunting building, was not nearly as nerve wracking as I imagined. After a guided tour of the newsroom from the senior editorial assistant, I was introduced to my department (the weekend magazine) and my colleagues for the coming weeks.

It did not take long to realise that I hold the dubious distinction of being possibly the youngest, and definitely the most ill-prepared journalist in a building housing 400 editorial staff. Readers will not be surprised to hear that all indicators point to a well-oiled machine.

But to my surprise, at no point does the task seem daunting. I have my own desk, phone, email address and workspace. I am surrounded by friendly, helpful colleagues who encourage me to bring ideas to the table. I am expected to complete fact-checking and proof-reading tasks, but am also encouraged to write and to think of fresh ideas for articles. Thus far, the staff I have encountered have gone out of their way to help me, and have been incredibly grateful and courteous for work I have helped them with.

Having settled in, my next aim is to start thinking of good ideas for articles. It’s been made clear to me that as far as writing goes, a good idea will receive a by-line, it’s as simple as that. There are also plenty of writing opportunities to write in corresponding departments, it is down to me to ask.

First impressions, I need not have been at all nervous, I am lucky to be here and my time here will be what I make of it.

Other objectives? To summon the courage to talk to some of the senior columnists, I’ve seen a few of them around, and their doors appear to be always open. So Mr Rachman, how do I get to the top of the tree?