FT Weekend Magazine by Daniel Cohen

Monday 10 October 2011

On a Monday morning, pondering the definition of ‘smart casual’, I arrived at the FT. I was welcomed by the helpful assistants, who gave me a tour of the building and explained the workings of the paper. I was then taken to the Magazine desk, where I was introduced to the editorial staff and given my desk, which has a river view.

The Magazine goes to press Wednesday afternoon, so Mondays are not the quiet start to the week that I expected. I was placed with the subeditors, whose banter put me at ease, and set to work proof-reading before being initiated in the art of fact-checking. At the Magazine this is a reassuringly thorough process. I set to work with my arsenal of highlighters, confirming every single reference that contained factual information. When I asked if this included checking whether our prime minister is, indeed, called ‘David Cameron’, I was told that this was a 10 on the scale, and I should investigate everything 9 or below. Using my red highlighter to point out errors brings out my inner teacher and is always cruelly satisfying, especially when the article is by an author of note.

At the morning editorial conference, which I have attended twice so far, one has the chance to see how the paper comes together each day, and how the FT – and newspapers generally – function as a whole. At first, it can be a little difficult to follow, especially when someone rushes through the latest market figures as if they’re the racing results, but it’s given me useful insight into the kinds of stories editors look for.

While the first half of the week, before the Magazine goes to press, is mostly dedicated to sub-editing, the rest of the time offers opportunities for research and some writing. I’ve already investigated such diverse subjects as rugby, dinosaurs and Teddy boys. The editors are sympathetic to the intern’s desire to get into the paper and offer opportunities to contribute to regular features like ‘FT Foodies’ and ‘First Person’. The workload can be irregular, so it pays to approach them rather than waiting for them to come to you – there’s usually something that needs to be done. They’re keen to hear your thoughts about the articles that are running and ideas, and it’s nice to feel that your opinion is valued.