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

Monday, 20 September 2010

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


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