FT Weekend Magazine by Nabeelah Jaffer

Thursday 26 April 2012

It was a Wednesday afternoon, which meant that I faced an onslaught of questions.

“Who did Pete Sampras beat in 1993?”

“Which blind prophet appears in Homer’s Odyssey and T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land?”

“What is the tallest breed of dog?”

I cursed my useless modern history degree and tried to look thoughtful rather than vague. “Agassi? Methuselah? An Alsatian?”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Luckily for my terrible memory for trivia, this wasn’t a “tell me about a banana” style interview, meant to test my worth as an FT intern. The Wednesday afternoon group trivia session allows the sub-editing team to test the following week’s magazine quiz and gives everyone a chance to relax a bit after the fast-paced build up to the 2pm press deadline. Kudos is awarded to those who knowledge of the esoteric came up trumps (strictly without resort to Google).

Any regular reader of the letters page will know that accuracy is vital, which means that everyone gets involved in reading through each updated line of copy and re-made proof for mistakes. There is a particular satisfaction to letting your inner pedant run wild on columns and features by familiar writers: Tim Harford, Gillian Tett, and even Lionel Barber.

But the welcoming atmosphere means no magazine intern will spend all their time fact-checking alone at a desk in the corner. My first day began with a tour of the building from a welcoming Editorial Assistant, and some useful training in the paper’s content management system. During my first week, I was moved to the subbing desk for the build-up to the Wednesday peak that dominates the office from Monday morning. I found myself brushing up on old Adobe In Design skills with some patient guidance from the Chief Sub-Editor, and was soon at work laying one or two pages, and playing around with columns and standfirsts. The magazine’s high standards require multiple sign-offs, lending weight and value to your work when it passes the rigorous proofing process.

The Weekend Magazine’s team is small, so work is plentiful and varied. You quickly get to know everyone from the editorial assistants to the commissioning editors, who are keen to involve you in bigger projects or the occasional opportunity to write a short piece. After a few weeks I was asked to extend my internship in order to help with a special focus issue of the magazine, due to come out in a few months’ time. I was soon undertaking the same research as the department’s freelancers, and getting my first taste of journalistic responsibility.

The few administrative tasks that you are given to complete sit alongside a varied workload, and a team who want to give you the chance to learn and broaden your experience. Meeting these opportunities with a proactive attitude will ensure that you take everything you can from your time as an intern.


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