FT Life and Arts by Maria Howard

Monday 19 September 2011

There is no doubt that an internship at the FT gets off to a glamorous start. The first time you walk through the doors of the scary grey building on the Thames you can’t help but feel important. The excitement builds as you are invited to attend the daily conference, given a seat in the hierarchy and nervously shake editor Lionel Barber’s hand.

After your busy first morning you are sent to the 6th floor canteen with a perfect view of London tinged a business grey by the windows and a large selection of food to rival any school dinners.
In the afternoon I was sent to my new home, the Life & Arts desk, that puts out the weekend supplement. Everything is considerably more relaxed than on the busy ground floor where the financial newsroom is dominated by screens showing 24 hour news channels and the air is filled with panic and/or excitement depending on what the stock markets are doing that day.

Soon after my arrival I am handed a copy of the upcoming Lunch with the FT interview and told to come up with some ideas for the ‘lunch box’. Instead of making sandwiches I am being asked to write some headings for a small feature that could accompany an interview with a technologically-savvy Shaolin monk.

I quickly get to work but soon learn that the pace here is more tortoise than hare due to it being a weekly feature-led paper rather than a news-based daily. As someone who up until a few days ago was an unemployed graduate I take this in my stride. Everyone seems busy but not harried and they’ll always have time to answer any questions you may have.

I have spent a lot of time fact-checking which allows me to read all the articles ahead of when they are published. So now I am very knowledgeable about fashion’s top families, the history of New York’s skyscrapers and Michael Moore’s eating habits. All useful stuff I’m sure you will agree.

A highlight of working on the Life & Arts desk is the exciting offerings in the post; glamorous invitations to art and fashion events arrive in expensive envelopes and dozens of shiny new books each to be carefully noted on the forward planning list in case they prove to be feature-worthy. The editors rarely have time to go to all these events so you often end up benefiting and enjoying the odd film screening or glass of wine courtesy of some gallery or fashion house. David Hockney’s press launch at the RA was one such exciting affair with free coffee and croissants and a presentation (some might call it a rant) by the man himself.

It certainly is a great introduction to the world of arts and lifestyle journalism but here is one last tip: it helps to be well-versed in the art of tweeting as the editors are very keen to attract people like you to what might otherwise seem like a very grown-up paper.


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