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The good, the bad, and the ugly

09/10/2011

I have completed a number of work placements with the national media over the summer, and here is what I have learned so far.  I have compiled a brief list of Do’s and Don’ts for those who might be interested.

Do speak up

Editors tend to be the friendliest people in the newsroom, most of them are happy to talk to interns; they’ll invite you to editorial meetings and might even seek your opinion, so don’t be afraid of speaking up.

During my week long placement at the Times, I participated in three daily editorial meetings. One such meeting involved Deputy Editor of the newspaper and three other senior editors, so it was quite small meetings. The trial of the former Tunisian leader Ben Ali had just started and they were discussing the editorial for the next day’s paper. I observed and listen as they discussed possible angles, the Deputy Editor then asked me for my opinion. I suggested an angle, he liked it and elaborated on what I suggested, and that is what they went with.

Do avoid the Foreign Desk

I have an interest in international news; domestic news is not my forte, so when I was at the Times, I ask to join the Foreign Desk.  Big mistake.  80 to 90 % of foreign news is sourced from the wires, the remainder is from the reporters stationed overseas, so you’ll probably end up doing very little when there.  This is true for most papers.

Do avoid the Sunday papers

Because they are published weekly, if you end up doing a placement with a Sunday paper, there is a strong chance that you will find yourself with little do most of the time.  When I was at the Observer, I was often twiddling my thumbs, but the opportunity allowed me to network with section editors from the Guardian.  I had an article commissioned by the Guardian with an opportunity to write for them again the future, so it the placement had its benefits.

Do be prepared to be ignored

Some media organization have formal short term work experience schemes, which means there will be a steady flow work experience students going in and out, so some journalist will ignore your presence. Which is annoying and rude, but try not to take it personally because some are legitimately busy others are just insecure twats.

Don’t be intimidated

As I have already said, most editors tend to friendly and approachable, but recently I have had the opportunity to meet one who is less so.  This editor works for a well known Broadcasting corporation. While I was there I found myself doing little when the other journalist appeared to be swamped with tasks, so I approached him and suggested I could be of use if given more work. He took it as me criticising the work placement which didn’t go down well. So while taking the initiative is always a good thing, do be careful, some people might not respond in the way you’d hoped. Having said, you have nothing to lose by speaking up, so never be intimidated.

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