FT Weekend Magazine by Emily Cataneo

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Many of my predecessors have described their first-day tour of the Financial Times office as ‘whirlwind.’ When I first read this blog, before starting my tenure at the FT, I wondered why so many interns had chosen that word. Now I understand. Perhaps my tour was even more of a whirlwind than usual because on my first day, I arrived late after taking a wrong turn out of London Bridge Station and wandering east instead of west. As I sat in the lobby waiting for editorial assistant Jacqueline Broome to come admit me, I wondered if I’d be fired before I even started. But she was more than understanding, explaining that London Bridge Station has disoriented many an intern before me. And thus began the whirlwind tour: through a vast newsroom with row upon row of desks and computers. The slick white desks and black computers screamed modernity and efficiency — it was all very different from my previous internship at an alternative weekly back in Boston, and I began to worry that I might come off as a blithering artsy idiot in this world of business suits and high-powered journalism. But the atmosphere was more relaxed upstairs at the magazine desk where I would be interning. I was introduced to my colleagues and shown my desk, and then I stepped into the world of the FT Weekend Magazine.

My most common tasks in the past few weeks have been researching, fact-checking, and copy-editing. It’s something of a thrill to scan the magazine proofs, red pen in hand (although this is the FT, so the red pen doesn’t see too much action), then see them in their final glossy form when that week’s issue is dropped on my desk on Thursday. Between my three main tasks, I’m able to track the trajectory of a story, from its genesis or approval in the weekly ideas meeting, to its rough form as a Microsoft Word document dotted with typos and in need of a fact check, to its marked-up proof, complete with pictures, to its finished form in a magazine. The beginning of this process has been especially useful for me, as I’ve seen how and why the magazine editors accept or reject a pitch. Hopefully, this will be useful to me in the future, as I learn the best ways to pitch a story as a freelancer.

To my pleasant surprise, my colleagues here seem more than willing to give me writing assignments. Among interns, in America at least, it’s something of a universally accepted fact that there’s a negative correlation between how prestigious an organization is and how much interns get to write. But at the FT, the pinnacle of prestige, this rule doesn’t hold true at all. In my first week, one of my colleagues asked me for an idea for the weekly ‘Information’ section. I blurted out an idea that I’d had about how many payphones are left in various cities throughout the world; now, a mere two weeks (and many phone calls) later, that idea is slated to appear in the 20 March edition. I may also be working on another ‘Information’ about how much various substances cost per kilo. It seems that the FT offers something almost as sought-after and elusive as the Holy Grail: a prestigious internship programme that allows its participants to actually perform important tasks and write.


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