Two Sections: One Intern – The Books/House & Home Internship Shane Murphy

Thursday 25 February 2010

My real introduction to the FT came after my whirlwind tour of the building and the ceremonial sitting-in at the Monday morning editorial conference. Within two minutes of arriving at the Books desk, an editor handed me an essay by a prominent British journalist along with the instructions, “Tell me what you think of this.” Despite having no experience working for a newspaper, let alone a global and influential newspaper, my feedback was considered by the editors and most of my suggestions were passed on to the author. The following Saturday I got the humble thrill of seeing some of my editorial changes adapted into the weekend books essay.

From that start, the pace has only accelerated as I have been immersed eyebrow-deep in the dual worlds of Books and House & Home. It becomes instantly clear when you arrive in the editorial room that the weekend edition is a massive collaborative effort. Through reading proofs and fact-checking articles, I quickly became integrated with the teams of editors in both sections. Few things went into the Book or House & Homes section that I hadn’t made some tiny factual or typographical adjustment to.

This past week my responsibilities have expanded beyond the minute details. I have been travelling around London interviewing architects for an article that I’m writing. And just yesterday I was asked to write a short book review.

After a few weeks of being here, your input is given due consideration and the editors are happy to provide feedback on your progress. There is never a shortage of things you can learn or opportunities to get involved.

Life and Arts by Alex Jones

Thursday 18 February 2010

So, I went into the morning meeting on my first day, and Lionel Barber says, ‘where are you from’? And I say, ‘Sheffield’. He looks at me a little strangely, but moves on. The new intern next to me (read her illuminating blog below) says ‘Channel Four’ and I think, dear lord, of course he didn’t mean where in the country – what an idiot. Word of warning: don’t let the nerves speak for you, especially when the person you’re speaking to is The Editor (notice the capitalisation, like God.)

My time on the FT Life and Arts desk has been vastly enjoyable. From the basics like collating information for the forward events list and fact-checking articles, to the more advance stuff like researching and writing sidebars and pitching ideas, my time here has meant that I have come to be familiar with the workings of the desk and of the paper as a whole. What has struck me most has been the sense of inclusion; everyone, from editors to subs to pictures, has gone out of their way to involve me in the all the processes of the section.

This inclusion, the feeling that I was really part of the team, has given me the confidence to voice my ideas and opinions safe in the knowledge that they would, at least, be considered. In the world of the intern I have found that this kind of confidence, wherein one feels valued and respected, is a rare and precious commodity and should the opportunity arise for me to answer any other questions for Mr. Barber, I think I would put it to good use.

The World News Desk by Hannah Murphy

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Monday morning, I arrived at the FT with two large bags. It wasn't the intention to arrive for the long-term although I've become rather enamoured with the moneyless system of lunching, the rivers views and free coffee. My reason for carrying large bags into the FT offices was that I have been 'on the road', a euphemistic term for 'gainfully employed in television'. My background is making current affairs documentaries. This is obviously an entirely different gig and as I stood in the FT foyer, it dawned on me, three rolls of gaffer tape, a screw-driver, lens cleaner and a head torch weren't going to be helpful.

Inductions, tours and straight into the morning conference. I was asked the question 'where are you from?' by the editor 30 minutes into my first day and not sure how to answer with any gusto, I promptly said 'Channel 4 or I was' and stared at my shoes - the confusion of a freelancer.
Today begins my third week on the World News Desk. Before I started I had visions of a frenetic office buzzing, glowing, ringing. That is exactly what I encountered, an exciting freneticism, a rare breed of freneticism, freneticism with poise.

Coming from television, I always had the luxury to digest and investigate a story for several months. Here, the stories are pinging off the walls faster than I can blink. Slowly, I'm beginning to find my feet in world events. I can talk at length about the seal population and GDP of Nunavut and the going rate for an ox and plough in Juba (100,000 SDD). I'm learning the style in which the FT is bound together and trying to bend my 'human story' leaning towards world economics and international relations - an excellent discipline and one as hearty as Guinness.

I need to eat more oily fish and listen to vast quantities of classical music to expand my brain so over the next two weeks I can improve on the following:
--collecting and processing data/statistics as part of a story package
--writing exhilarating copy at great speed
--produce headlines that do not require amendment
--my fear of publishing directly online
--the poise

One Day in the Life of a Magazine Intern... by Stephen Morris

Friday 12 February 2010

Once I got over my initial awe at actually being allowed (invited!) inside the Financial Times building – a charming obsidian fortress – I was put at ease by the friendly editorial assistant, William. I was led on a swift tour of the open-plan newsroom and had all my questions answered with admirable patience, William being used to the nervous ramblings of naïve interns.

The highlight of my first day came soon, when I was allowed to sit in on the paper’s morning conference. Experiencing the Zen-like calm of editor Lionel Barber as he manages the post-mortem of the previous issue and plans the next is a treat, and you may even be invited to splutter out your name and position if you fail to sufficiently blend into the surroundings.

I then joined my friendly Weekend Magazine team clustered on the second floor, where they explained my basic duties and discussed my aims for my time with them.

I am delighted to report that, as has been the case with all my predecessors, my experience at the magazine has been immensely rewarding and not at all menial.

Unless you are an abnormally precocious talent (think a young Martin Amis or Zadie Smith, and even then…) you are unlikely to write the lead feature during your tenure. However, observing the editorial process which a writer must navigate to get published will set you in very good stead for the future.

Interns are invited to attend all editorial meetings where pitches are discussed and flat plans are finessed, and will likely bump into some of the FT’s big names who frequently contribute to the magazine. As my internship coincided with the early flickers of election fever, I eagerly absorbed the insight of the Westminster team as they threw around ideas for their upcoming reportage.

My main daily duties were fact-checking and proof-reading articles for accuracy (a surprisingly demanding task), researching for staff, liaising with PRs and agents, and updating the Twitter page. I presided over an 8.42 per cent increase in followers – a towering achievement in today’s crowded world of social media.

The team also strongly encourage their interns to pitch ideas for the various recurring short features in the magazine and offer to write short book reviews. I found the attitude – quite rightly – to be “Ask not what the magazine can do for you…”, an important lesson for young journalists to learn.

Whilst not every piece will be printed, they will always provide admirably frank feedback on the writing and content. This was perhaps the most valuable aspect of my internship: an insight into the exacting levels of excellence demanded by the FT. I was fortunate enough to see my name in the magazine and on the website in my second week. Although comparatively small-fry, it’s still good for that frisson of pride. After all, Bob Woodward was fired from his first job as an intern runner.

Considering the parlous state of the British media and the stiff competition for the few remaining jobs, proving oneself through internships is now a prerequisite. This is why my internship at the Financial Times has been invaluable. There is no other publication which arouses so much attention from prospective employers, and, as I have found out, with good reason.