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.


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