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.

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