FT Life and Arts by Chay Allen

Thursday, 10 May 2012

It’s 10:15 on Monday morning and I’m sitting at the Financial Times’ editorial meeting with Lionel Barber and his section chiefs discussing the news agenda for the day: Standard & Poor’s has downgraded eleven Spanish banks, Aung San Suu Kyi has agreed to end a boycott of Parliament, and the Leveson Enquiry is still threatening to damage the Prime Minister’s reputation. Having only been in the building for forty-five minutes, I realise this is far from an ordinary internship.

After a tour of the building, in which my memory of the paper suddenly takes the form of a topography, I’m introduced to my home for the next four weeks on the Arts & Life desk. Managing to maintain my dignity as I’m introduced to the many notable names whose work I have become familiar with over the years, I am struck by the calm and friendliness that pervades the office. The surrounding desks teeming with books, papers and magazines, fencing busied faces performing curious deeds with words, gives me the impression that I’ve stumbled upon my own kind.

The first task I’m charged with is to look after the Twitter feed, making sure that all articles appearing in Life & Arts are given prominence throughout the week. Soon after, the Travel Editor Tom Robbins asks me to dig for information on prestige hotels providing pedal bikes for their guests. Sixty minutes and several phone calls later I have enough material for him to produce a contextual box next to a feature in the coming weekend’s edition.

I soon realise that the calm pervading the office is merely on the surface: while ploughing through reams of book catalogues, phoning film distributors and searching the Googleverse to ascertain the viability of a future feature, I’m given pages of the forthcoming edition to check and correct. No time for idol worship here as my red pen bulldozes a fictive anomaly parading as fact.

You’re given as much responsibility as you can handle, a fact evidenced on Friday when I’m asked to find an interviewee to talk about alternative art galleries open during the Olympic Games. At 6:00 pm I’m writing up an interview I conducted with the Director of the Camden Arts Centre, and have it completed before meeting friends for dinner.

Welcoming, challenging and supportive – this is how I would describe the experience of my first week as an Editorial Intern for Life & Arts. And for anyone serious about a career in arts journalism, this is almost certainly the best introduction you could wish for.


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