The last two days of my work placement were a strange mix of experiences; from feeling as though I were back at my student paper on Friday (albeit a very well-resourced, professional version), to getting as close to the front line of foreign reporting as you can probably get without actually leaving the country on Saturday, I was shown once again what a rollercoaster ride of a line of work journalism really is.
On Friday I spent my third day sitting at the foreign desk while actually carrying out the duties of home news. As such, I once again found myself carrying out the fairly banal task of entering addresses into a spreadsheet while around me people were running around shouting about the US presidential campaign, attempting to speak Romanian down the phone and booking flights to Moldova. It was all very surreal.
Though my data entry task was – to put it bluntly – mind-numbingly dull, there was something about the fact that it was a small, yet integral part of the paper’s biggest investigation that week which made it actually quite exciting. And despite the fact that I was sitting a few metres away from the rest of the team working on the story – a home news pariah in my foreign desk seat – knowing that we were all there, collectively toiling away for the same purpose brought a sense of camaraderie to the whole thing: first there was the you-know-it’s-a-real-live-investigation-of-epic-journalism-proportions-because-we-can-only-get-through-it-with-coffee run three hours in, then the lunchtime bitching session, and then at 8 pm that moment when you feel like packing it all in but look around and draw comfort from the fact that everyone else is still there with you, slogging it out for the greater good. It was like being back in my student journalism days.
Despite all of this group bonding malarkey however, I was admittedly pleased when, on the final day of my placement, I was restored back to my rightful position as the foreign desk work experience student. I suddenly found myself a part of the running around and shouting out of big important words like “bombing” and “terrorism” and for the first time in my life could actually justify my constant refreshing of a live blog. Of course, in reality I’m sure the desk could have got along quite fine without my hourly updates of the news hitting the wires (Reuters and Associated Press – apparently a certain other one isn’t to be trusted), but it felt good to at least be a witness to the editorial process of reporting on global events.
Perhaps the most “I’m in an actual newsroom on deadline day” moment came following the news that the number of people killed by the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram had risen to 143 (now reportedly 78), at which point the news editor came hurrying out of his office and asked the deputy foreign editor to write up a 450 word piece with only half an hour to go before deadline. Mad panic thus ensued and I suddenly found myself Googling distances between cities in a country four thousand miles away, and printing off articles from various different news sites in an effort to provide the deputy editor with enough information to actually write 450 words. Strangely enough I had actually been asked to write a briefing on Boko Haram just a few weeks earlier by my Conflict module tutor at City and so I actually knew what I was talking about (they know what they’re doing those City teachers).
Half an hour later, article written and deadline hit, the panic was over and calm resumed. Though I would have happily stayed there all night there wasn’t much else I could do at that point unless I had £400 to get on a flight and travel to South Carolina where the US presidential primaries were taking place – and even then I doubt my reporting would have got a column in edgeways over the desk’s actual Washington correspondent covering the event. And so, reluctantly, I left.
So that’s it for this work experience diary – for now at least. The second volume will be out in March when my next interning stint takes place, so stay tuned and thanks for reading.
(In the meantime I’ll be rambling about foreign affairs and the like so feel free to take a peek at that as well!)