Day in the Life... by David Thomas

Wednesday 29 September 2010

The news wires buzzed. A Pakistani politician, they said, had been slain outside his North London home. Clutching my notebook, and with no prior experience, I was despatched by the world news desk to investigate. This was most unexpected. Previous days had been spent compiling briefs, assisting with graphics and researching timelines. The chance to do some reporting was a bolt from the blue.

My initial prying was met with abject failure. Stonewalled by the Met officers at the scene, I awkwardly shuffled over to my fellow hacks –young representatives of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Mail. Their easy manner and willingness to offer advice gave me fresh confidence and hinted at a camaraderie amongst journalists of all stripes. They were pleasantly surprised, they quipped, to find someone from the FT at the scene of a murder, rather than a bank collapse. Nevertheless, a trip to the dead politicians’ party HQ provided a chance to test out my interviewing skills – and with my interviewee advocating a military coup, proved far from tedious. Even more exciting was discovering that my quotes would be used in an article in the Weekend FT, just below a priceless byline. Result.

Exciting though it was, the day proved an exception. In short, don’t expect to become a star reporter overnight. The nature of the world news desk - it acts as a hub for a network of foreign correspondents - means there are few initial opportunities for those after a scoop. The chance to observe, learn and contribute in more modest ways defines the average day on the desk. Scanning the wire services for briefs may not be particularly exhilarating, but considerably strengthens news judgment. Deciding whether Croatian strikes are more significant than Pakistani bombings may be an undervalued skill, but contributes to the overall flavour of the famous pink pages. Likewise, the skills of online publishing might not secure you a Pulitzer Prize, but are increasingly important as the paper seeks to compete on the web.

An internship with the FT is what you make of it. Colleagues are too busy to notice when you are not, so constantly pushing for advice, guidance and work (however minor) is a must. Most will be happy to help when they can, and certainly dealt with my pestering with good patience and humour. My brief stay at the country's best newspaper may be over, but my desire to pursue a career in reporting is certainly not.

A special report by Hannah Thomson

Monday 27 September 2010

"And to your right," crackled the commentary from the Thames tourist trip we were taking down the river, "is the headquarters for the National Association of Window Cleaners." Of course, it wasn't. To our right was the Financial Times building, gleaming ostentatiously in the sunlight.

A few years later and I was walking through those office doors. After taking an hour of public transport from my student flat in Hackney, the building looked brighter than the first time I saw it- even on a cloudy Monday morning.

It is difficult to describe the atmosphere within. Unlike the movies, where newsrooms are full of chaos, corduroy and forgotten coffee cups, the Financial Times is calm. Perhaps if I had done my research better, I would not have been surprised by the entirely professional and strikingly efficient environment in the midst of which I have spent the past two weeks. After all, the newspaper is written by those at the top of their game and read by some who have achieved even more. It is always accurate and reliable.

Accuracy and reliability, I have learnt first-hand, requires a lot of fact-checking. It was the first task I was asked to do when I arrived at the Special Reports desk, and I'm sure I will be doing it as I leave. I have also been researching, sub-editing and writing. The reason that this newspaper's story is not as chaotic as those films is not because the chaos lies underneath the tightly buttoned-up surface, but because underneath that surface there is a strong web of connections. What you read from those pink pages is something that has been sent back and forth and around this web. As an intern, you have the chance, for a brief time, to become part of this web. And it is brilliant.

Be prepared to hit the ground running and keep running. Be open to any opportunities that come your way. For example, I've used the fire alarm for an excuse to hear the stories of a colleague who was in the Canary Wharf Tower when the IRA bomb exploded in 1996.

They say that it's not what you know but who you know. The people at the Financial Times are amazing to know - even if it is just for a couple of weeks.

At the heart of things by Charlie Cooper

Monday 20 September 2010

The Financial Times is a class act. This much is made abundantly clear by the quality and clarity of a newspaper that is essential reading for businesspeople from New York to Hong Kong. Indeed, not just businesspeople. The FT matters to anyone who likes their news straight up and without the spin, bias and verbal effluence that abound in other sections of the media.

To be at the heart of an operation that is truly global in scope is exhilarating, and you feel the atmosphere the moment you walk into the newsroom. Sitting in at the morning editor’s conference, on my first day, was a real privilege. New banking regulations straight from Basel, the TUC Conference kicking off in Manchester, Obama making a speech in Washington this afternoon – data and information spanning the planet, all coming together in one small room overlooking the Thames.

The FT is unique in that it produces not one, but four, separate editions a day; one each for the UK, Europe, Asia and the USA. The four editions carry most of the same content, but each has to be subtly different in terms of which stories are given prominence. For an editor laying out a page, it all adds up to a daily jigsaw puzzle of devious complexity.

I was based on the UK News Desk and quickly realised how calm, professional and clever a news editor needs to be at a paper of the FT’s quality. The editors act as the fulcrum of the whole operation and have the difficult job of transforming a constantly shifting, constantly developing news landscape into a clear, concise and coherent three pages that covers everything that really counts. They do it very well indeed, and it was a pleasure just to observe them at work.

But an intern at the FT is, of course, not only an observer or a coffee-getter (though I did get a lot of coffee – fetched and delivered with aplomb, I might add). After an introductory first day I was getting my teeth into some fascinating research tasks for a senior journalist, making calls to offices up and down the country as preliminary work for an upcoming feature and contemplating the prospect of doing my first ‘vox-pop’.

The things I’ve learned on this internship fall into two categories: things learned by doing, and things learned by watching. The staff have been very welcoming, letting me take part in meetings and have an input. I’ve been able to ask about what it is they’re up to at any given moment, and gained a far more thorough understanding of the editorial process – vital experience for an aspiring journalist.

Best of all, I’ve been made to feel like a colleague, not a subordinate. Even though the people I’ve worked with are light-years ahead of me in terms of experience, intelligence and more or less everything else, there’s absolutely no snobbery, and my ideas and efforts were always treated with genuine respect. The FT staff want to give interns the best possible start in this challenging, exhilarating but ultimately very fulfilling industry. I’m extremely grateful for that.

A day in the life of Alec Ash at the FT Magazine

One sweaty afternoon, halfway through my ten weeks at the FT Magazine, I was fact-checking an article on cosmology and came across the sentence "the universe is infinite but expanding". I sat up in my seat, and thought: how am I expected to fact check this? Call Stephen Hawking? Call God? Go out and check?

Just one of the challenges of an exacting, exciting, and often fun, internship. I have found the experience rewarding to date, and especially interesting as the magazine is going through a redesign as I write this in September 2010. There is a good sense of being part of the team, and plenty of experience to gain. All in all, I recommend it.

For those thinking of applying, here is the kind of work that is involved:

• Fact-checking a variety of stories. This is a slog, but leaves you a mini-expert in many fields.
• Researching everything from stories with potential to more quotidian fare, like the dates of upcoming events.
• Subbing articles, which gives a good feel for journalistic writing.
• Tweeting for the magazine every day.
• Thinking up ideas for features and smaller slots - the reactions to which from your colleagues give a useful impression of what magazine editors look for.
• Writing up the ideas they like - which is a good way to justify your labour if you're worried about not being paid for the internship itself.

And for those already at their desk, my one tip is: be proactive. Don't flip through facebook while waiting for someone to give you a job to do. Ask for the task, or think it up yourself. There's no better way to impress than to hand your editor something useful which she/he didn't ask for. Most of all, if you enjoy writing and want to build up a portfolio, keep plugging away at the editors with pitches and don't be put off by rejection.

I'll wrap up with a quote from Scottish author Candia McWilliam's memoir:

"The practicalities of working co-operatively on a magazine are similar to those of working on a film and require many of the same adaptive qualities. You need to be practical, quick-witted, resourceful, outgoing, good at working with other people, unflappable and not remotely touchy."

I hope this has been of help. Good luck! Alec

My FT week by Ana Dabrundashvili

Monday 13 September 2010

The Financial Times is a dream destination for Georgian students. I was the luckiest. I spent a week at the FT and it was not like any other place I’ve ever lived or worked (not that there are many of them, though.)

On my first day, I had hardly shaken hands with my supervisor and was trying to remember if his name was Max or Mark, or something else starting with an "M", when a siren like a school-bell went off. Dozens of people in their suits and ties, who had been trying to figure out why Sweden’s economy had a 1,9% rise this year, slowly moved to the fire exit knowing there was probably no fire to run from.

That’s what responsible citizens do: they queue; they follow safety instructions and they pay for public transport. Unfortunately, I’ve not become a responsible citizen during my stay in London: I keep accidentally showing an old ticket to the bus driver. But I have learnt a lot of new words (like “Googlable”) and started to understand British journalism jokes. I have even started to become friends with the FT software. I also found out there is a right way to sit at my desk when a lady from career counselling approached me and asked if I wanted to talk about my job: she seemed worried I might develop a stiff neck!

Thanks to all the staff who have been nice and attentive to me (they even tried to spell my surname correctly) I now consider my FT log in, password, mailbox and security pass to be something absolutely natural. I have even stopped walking the streets lost and searching for the FT building.

This glimpse inside the world’s most respected publication is something that will drive me to set myself higher standards and push myself to something more than average. I observed a true professionalism during this week and had the opportunity to brush up on my own. Although I still feel like Harry Potter on his very first day at Hogwarts, I’m confident it will not be the case next time.