Life & Arts by Hazel Sheffield

Monday 30 November 2009

On the first day, tucked in the corner of a conference room at FT-headquarters watching Lionel Barber take the week’s news from each desk editor, there’s the realisation that this really is no ordinary internship. The blue suits are discussing the angles the FT will take on each of the week’s stories, mooting ideas and covering all bases – essentially making the news. And in the corner the interns are watching, wondering that their presence isn’t some kind of security breach.

The suits don’t venture much to the arts desk, where a somewhat steadier pace prevails. At Life & Arts, longer lead times and bigger pieces mean that there’s much to be done by way of researching commissions for journalists and subsequently fact-checking copy once it’s in. Life & Arts means food, travel, some style and all the regular diary/interview columns, so keeping ahead of forthcoming events and releases is essential to ensure the most relevant people can be commissioned for each. Sudden commands to please track down Michael Moore or Woody Allen are not, in fact, the impossible tasks they first seem!

Speedy, reliable work is soon rewarded. The commissioning editors are busy people, of course, but there’s a remarkable sense team-spirit and inclusiveness about Life & Arts at the FT, far removed from the fickle, snooty spheres of so much high culture. The support and encouragement of the staff writers goes way beyond the call of duty, and editors are keen to hear ideas and offer side-bars and smaller interviews to interns to write where appropriate. This is no tea-making exercise!

It takes a few weeks before the weekly routine of this cyclical operation starts to seem familiar, with Thursdays always particularly busy as Weekend gets rushed off to print. Almost before all the pages are sent, it seems, there are meetings to check on the progress of the next issues and keep all the desks on track. Seeing each issue come together from raw idea to colourful product is fascinating and pretty humbling, too.

The moment I realised just what the internship meant to me was on one very cold early morning, at a press conference at the British Museum. The other people in attendance – the editor of the Sunday Times, the controller of BBC Radio 4, some of the country’s best writers and journalists – were dauntingly important. I tried to be invisible by the wall while everyone quaffed coffee and pastries and talked about the future of the newspaper industry. The only person to talk to me that morning was Evan Davis, himself apparently playing the wallflower. “What do you do?” he asked. “I’m from the FT,” I replied, “but I’m just the intern.”

To get the chance to represent the Financial Times on such occasion and in such company was an honour, but experiences like that also give the aspiring journalist a much-needed taste of what could be. Here’s hoping one day I can drop the subordinate clause.

A 360 view of the World News desk by Vanessa Kortekaas

Friday 20 November 2009

One need only attend the morning conference to see how the FT family embodies the values fundamental to good journalism: integrity, authority and accuracy. The internship program offers a glimpse into how this model news organization churns out the pink pages that set the agenda for people across the globe everyday. At the World News desk, the hub that connects a web of foreign reporters, there is never a dull moment…

Morning “huddles” mark the start of the day as various editors reflect on the previous day’s paper and hash out stories for tomorrow. As an intern, these meetings have given me insight into the editorial decision-making process at the FT. It also offers a lesson on how editors map out pages over several editions of the paper. Then, while the editors commission stories and begin editing copy, I set about other tasks.

Fortunately, my arrival at the FT has coincided with the impending launch of the World News blog. Although it isn’t up and running yet, I have been able to contribute to this exciting project, which reinforces the connection between print and online. My role has largely entailed writing daily “Issue Briefings” for the blog. I confer with the deputy editor, Shaun Donnan, to select the biggest story of the day and write about the issues and angles being covered across media outlets and think tanks around the world. As well as news articles, it includes videos, interviews, documents, and reports – your one-stop shop for the big issue of the day.

In my second week I was asked to write an article to contribute to the FT’s Road to Copenhagen series. The next day I was perched in a vineyard in Southeast England, interviewing an English winemaker who has benefited from global warming. Such is the pace at the FT.

The FT newsroom is a truly inspiring place to be. Talent aside, Alec Russell and everyone at the World News desk is welcoming and willing to let their interns contribute. The FT internship is essential learning experience for any aspiring journalist trying to understand how newspapers can succeed in the 21st century.

A week on the Weekend Magazine by Sonia Van Gilder Cooke

Monday 16 November 2009

If you have read the other posts on this blog, I hardly need tell you that an FT internship transcends the stereotypes: after two weeks on the job, I haven’t used the photocopier, and on my first day, one of my co-workers was kind enough to offer me a cup of coffee.

Approaching the FT building on the first day, its black exterior did not suggest bonhomie. This initial impression was belied by the senior editorial assistant, William Gregory, who quickly put me at ease as he showed the new band of interns around the different departments. As a magazine intern, I didn’t anticipate having much contact with the news team, but on the first morning, we sat in on a meeting with the editor, Lionel Barber, who exuded a quiet authority as members of the news team discussed the day’s stories.

Making our way up to the second floor, the sight of paints cluttering a desk and teetering piles of books indicated that we had reached the Life and Arts and Magazine section. William introduced me to the Weekend Magazine team and showed me to my desk, right next to the deputy and associate editors.

After settling in, the deputy editor of the magazine, Rose Jacobs, arranged a meeting to discuss my hopes for the internship. That initial meeting set the tone for my time here, during which I have felt genuinely valued by the magazine staff.

Each day, the editors assign me tasks, and I complete them as efficiently as possible. My input is solicited and my expertise valued. In return, I am expected to work independently and produce work of a high standard. After completing a fact checking assignment, I was asked to write a sidebar for a feature article. Today that issue has come out, and it is thrilling to see my name in the magazine after only a week and a half at the office.

Other projects I’ve worked on include writing the prototype for a new magazine column, contributing to the What Happened Next? feature for an upcoming issue, and co-authoring a piece with the FT’s chief environmental reporter, Fiona Harvey. Aside from these opportunities, life at the FT provides other benefits: its waterfront location allows for lunchtime rambles through the Borough Market or along the Thames.

Another pleasure of my time here has been coming to know the magazine staff. Often it’s the little things – an editor’s commitment to precise language or striking visuals - that have taught me the most. Above all, I’ve appreciated the culture of respect. I’m trusted to work hard, which is incentive enough.

German journalist works for the FT by Tino Andresen

Thursday 12 November 2009

Having the possibility to work for the Financial Times in London for six weeks as an awardee of the George Weidenfeld Bursary is a unique opportunity for a German journalist. Usually, I work for the Handelsblatt, Germany’s leading business and financial daily.

I was not sure how I would be able both to write in English and to respect the deadlines. I should not have the answer on my first day. Instead of that, I had a very professional introduction, including IT training and the chance to observe the morning conference.

However, on the second day, I had my first try. Vislink, a secure telecommunications specialist, published an interim management statement on its third quarter. The FT’s emphasis on editing articles helped me. For this piece, I got a constructive and helpful feedback and the hint to care extremely about the lead sentence.

The rest of the week, I had to write a story per day that was published on the web. Working for the UK Companies desk, where I spent the first half of my internship, was very interesting. I got to know companies like Boomerang Plus, a Welsh independent television producer, Edinburgh-based Forth Ports, the UK’s only listed ports company, or Ultrasis, the interactive healthcare software maker.

Moreover, I had the possibility to contribute to the In depth “After the Berlin wall: Europe 20 years on” with a piece on a leading supplier of equipment and technology for the photovoltaic industry founded by three then East German scientists just a few months after the Wall came down.

For the second half, I will stay with the UK News desk. I am already curious how that will be. I hope to be able to offer one or two pieces proposed by myself as the topics seem to be more general than those of the UK Companies desk. For I did not known too much about companies based in the UK before to be honest.

A Day in the Life of a Design Intern by Devon Devane

Tuesday 3 November 2009

I wasn't sure what to expect interning at the Financial Times. As a young graduate graphic designer, it would appear that working at a newspaper ostensibly, doesn't allow for alot of creative freedom compared to other types of print media and working for a paper such as the Financial Times lacks a certain youth appeal. These were certainly my thoughts applying for the position but I applied anyway because regardless of what the experience was like I would have a huge, recognizable name to put on my C.V.

However, my preconceived notions of the experience were thoroughly misguided. On my first day I got a tour of the building, sat in on a conference and was generally introduced around and made to feel welcome. The bulk of the work I have been doing since, has been layout concepts in regards to redesigning certain pages and following on from this I have been creating style guides for the editorial team. Mostly everyone has the ability to adjust the layout of pages through the FT's Methode program (a custom made program you will have a chance to learn) and as such, sometimes things go wrong or fall off the grid and a style guide is needed to show how things should look.

There isn't a set structure to the work an intern does, if there is something you want to do, try or learn about all you have to do is ask and this is one of the factors that make this a great internship. There is so much variety in what you can learn as well as contribute depending on your skills. Another factor is the design team is comprised of a fantastic set of individuals who are not only great people but know the industry inside out. Working with these designers has definitely been the highlight of this internship and the wealth of information you can glean from them is thoroughly immense.

I have been surprised by the amount I have learned and experienced here at the FT and have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I have filled a gap in my portfolio and become much stronger in Indesign as well as having the opportunity to work with some amazing people. Most importantly of all though is that my perception of the newspaper industry has completely changed and this experience has opened up a few new doors. I thoroughly recommend it!