'Imagination will take you everywhere'
On 20th July I strode across London Bridge at 9.30am with all the other grey-faced commuters marching purposefully to their offices. The top of the Shard had disappeared into a misty morning sky, the spike nowhere to be seen. Cross winds swished my pleated skirt; the breeze blowing up the choppy Thames towards Tower Bridge. My destination loomed ahead. Not the sparkling glass tower of the Shard, but its neighbour: The News Building. Mr Murdoch’s Empire.
My first day of work experience at The Sunday Times Magazine. An award-winning, highly respected publication which I have read almost every Sunday for the past God knows how many years. The magazine is in its 53rd year, and is renowned for the eminent writers and photographers that has contributed to it’s pages, from Don McCullin, Snowden, Martin Amis and Ian Fleming, as well as great modern day writers whom I hugely admire such as AA Gill, Bryan Appleyard and Lynn Barber. So it’s safe to say I was pretty nervous as I passed through the revolving doors and into the shiny lobby.
The News Building isn’t just home to The Sunday Times but to The Sun (admittedly not my favourite) and The Times. I was working in one of the main epicentres of news journalism in the UK. I had to pinch myself. Taking the lift up to the 9th floor surrounded by all these suited journalists made me feel both intimidated and immensely proud that I’d even made it into the building (which is rather snazzy).
Luckily I wasn’t the only wide-eyed intern wondering about the office. I was joined by two others, both graduates of Goldsmith’s Journalism MA course (literally all of the interns seemed to be from there), one of which had just started working at the magazine part-time. So they both made me feel welcome and showed me the ropes, which I was very grateful for.
My first day wasn’t without a few hiccups. Of course I had my usual computer embarrassment. After being unable to login for most of the morning and phoning up the IT help desk, I realised the Num Lock on my keyboard was on. Typical me. I would blame first-day nerves, but it happens all the time.
Apart from that little glitch my placement has flown by rather smoothly and I have been engrossed in lots of interesting tasks; mostly researching for writers, transcribing interviews and compiling tweets to be sent out on the Sunday, as well as writing the ‘Second Helpings’ feature in the food section. But just being able to work with and help writers whom I hugely admire is brilliant. For example I did some research for AA Gill on a big feature that’s being planned (top secret I’m afraid), and I transcribed part of an interview Katie Glass did with a very well-known singer (one to look out for – to be published on 9th August).
I love the exclusivity of knowing future features that will be published as well as seeing the magazine take shape before my very eyes; watching the picture desk transform a photograph it into a magazine cover. The magazine is printed mid-week, so we get to see the final product before it’s released on the Sunday, which is pretty cool. People say print journalism is dead, but I disagree; seeing how much work goes into creating a high-quality magazine that is a brilliant depiction of the current times, makes me really value flicking through the glossy pages.
Attending the weekly features meeting on the Monday was a fascinating experience to see how ideas take shape and the process by which they develop and turn into fully-formed features. The editor, Sarah Baxter, was on holiday while I was there, so Mark Edmunds, the deputy editor was in charge. He’s not at all like the intimidating figure you expect from an editor – and he knew my name by the end of the placement, which cannot be said for most editors. The cookies I baked on my last day went down a storm – hopefully they’ll remember that when I come calling for a job!
A few interesting people I have spotted in the office: Eleanor Mills, the Editorial Director of The Sunday Times, columnist and chairwoman of Women in Journalism – whom I actually adore, Matt Rudd, senior writer who is just as funny in person as he is in his writing, and Pandora Sykes, fashion journalist at The Sunday Times Style magazine. She is the epitome of cool. I want to be her.
Overall a successful internship, however I am aware of how lucky I am to be able to complete this opportunity. George Osborne’s last budget was a kick in the teeth for students around the country – scrapping the maintenance grant for the poorest 40% of students and turning them into loans. Meaning that the most disadvantaged students will come out of university with even more debt. I believe work experience is key for students to gain knowledge and practice within their chosen industry – many employers only take on people with relevant work experience. It is hard enough for students to complete unpaid internships – let alone without the huge financial strain of debt on our young shoulders.