As a student of literature, and an aspiring journalist, I was able to wrangle myself a short internship at The Times in London. As I’m sure a lot of you are also writers, you will be aware that work experience like this is incredibly rare, and very difficult to come by. I thought it could be useful to share my experience, and paint some sort of a picture of what life at the heart of a national paper entails.
First and foremost, the atmosphere would be best described as busy, hectic, or to people like myself, exciting. I found myself sat among respected journalists, who at one moment were tapping away at their keyboards, and the next sprinting out the door to meet with contacts whom had whispered of potential stories. The pace did however differ depending on which department you were based. Naturally, the stress of the news desk was a little more noticeable than perhaps one of the departments that contributed exclusively to the Saturday edition.
One of my primary questions heading into the News Building at London Bridge, was where I would fit into this bastion of journalism? Eager though I was to get behind a keyboard and publish my own pieces in a national paper, the notion of this did become slightly more terrifying when I was actually sat down at my desk. It seems quite silly in hindsight to assume that I was going to be scribbling about scandals and covering headline crime stories. No, as an intern I played more of a support role. I was shown a side to journalism that isn’t just ink on paper, the wonderful world of fact checking and proof reading. I suppose I hadn’t considered how thorough journalists needed to be when publishing to a nationwide audience. I spent a good deal, if not the majority of my time, making calls to check figures were correct and up to date, compiling images for pieces, and scanning endless lines of texts for grammatical mistakes. What was particularly fascinating, is just how heated a debate can get over whether a comma deserved a place in a headline.
Although this was a large part of my experience, I did have the opportunity to get a few words published, and even snap up several by-lines in the process. When you do become a journalist, you get fed hundreds of stories a day from prospective people thirsty to be branded eye witnesses. It becomes less about finding a good story, and more about filtering out the bad ones. This meant that I was given a handful of pieces to write, which actually turned out to be not as nerve wrecking as I originally thought. Although graduate bank accounts aren’t my passion, nor is the level of students living in privately owned halls, having the confirmation from the editor that the substance of the stories was good enough to publish gave me a lot of confidence. It was a presumption that I would have to manufacture these exciting stories that made me so nervous in the first place. The concept of essentially becoming a vessel to convey these pre-assigned stories had me far more optimistic. I believed I coped well, and was even fortunate enough to get a spot on the cover of my departments insert.
I really enjoyed my experience at The Times, and it has fuelled my ambition to continue down the avenue of journalism. Having a few by-lines published for the portfolio has certainly boosted my own personal confidence. I also can’t stress enough how grateful I am to have to worked among such inspiring and polite journalists. From the junior reporter to the Editor, everyone was lovely, welcoming, and accommodating, despite their busy schedules. It was truly encouraging to have such a busy organisation take genuine interest in a student’s career.