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.


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