My day in the life of an FT intern by Owen Van Spall

Monday 13 December 2010

Getting into journalism involves hunting for internships - there is no getting away from it. Given that few trainee journalists can afford to work for free for very long (my internships have all meant taking a depressing amount of vacation time from my paid job), it means you really do need to get the most out of each one. When I started my posting with the FT World News desk I was probably on internship number five since gaining my NCTJ, but despite being something of an 'intern veteran' I still was a little uncertain about the experience I was in for. Starting a new internship always involves that curious mix of nervousness at being the clumsy over-polite new guy, and awe at being right in the heart of a prestigious paper, seeing in the flesh journalists and columnists whose work has inspired, informed and sometimes infuriated you.

Luckily for me the FT's internship programme proved to be a cut above. Though I perhaps at first didn't appreciate the difference between just being an intern, and being on an internship programme, it soon became clear that at the FT there was structured training and guidance available so that even fresh faced interns could contribute in a serious way to their news desk. It felt like a very professional scheme that didn't see incoming interns as just cannon fodder to help clear out those over-stuffed bookshelves in the basement.

The IT training for the Methode content management system I was given on day one meant that I was soon able to work on copy coming in from reporters and newswires, making it ready for the World News sections of the FT's website and print edition. This experience of the editorial aspect of a newsroom, what actually needs to be done to those news stories I used to read whilst munching my morning toast in front of my laptop, was more intense and in depth than any posting I had been on before. Before long I had picked up an essential clutch of skills to add to my CV and was able to feel more directly involved in the World News's teams work. Seeing (and editing) stories being filed from reporters out in the field, watching the newswire reports shooting by, and choosing news briefs to fill out the print newspaper, really added to the sensation of being right inside the engine of the machine. Attending morning and afternoon conferences also helped put what might be a dizzying amount of information into some kind of perspective, though as I learned: you have to pay attention to FT conferences - they move fast.