Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Auntie Em Joins the Fourth Estate - part three

Day 2: The Financial Times headquarters. 10a.m. - editorial meeting, in which we learn about the HST.

The morning editorial meeting: Lionel Barber goes through the previous day's paper with the editorial staff, discussion what worked, what didn't and what there should have been more of. I learnt that stories which pass the HST[1] should definitely be in the paper. I also learnt that there is a very long list of FT offices around the world that can be reached via video-conference equipment built into the conference table that looks like the bridge of a very stylish Starship Enterprise.

I was given a tour of the building by Patrice, one of the editorial assistants. The operation is much larger than I'd expected, with staff to fill the UK, online, USA, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Weekend and special editions.

11.30a.m. Birds do it, Bees do it, Traders on the LSE do it.

Clive has my first assignment for the daily edition. It's about a study on that most fundamental preoccupation: sex. I email my go-to sex researcher for a quote, along with the author of a related study from earlier last year. I get excellent quotes from both of them.

Getting quotes from the author of the study, on the other hand, is more difficult. He's out of the office and has apparently got the impression that neither he nor his co-authors can speak to anyone (including journalists) until the embargo. Unfortunately there's more information I need before I can write the story: a graph appears to be mis-described in the uncorrected proof of the paper I've been given and I want to check that the problem is just with the label and not the data.

I call the media relations person at the journal who is helpfulness personified. I mention the difficulty I'm having getting the information that I need and she tells me she will contact the author directly and get back to me. I get the impression that this is not the first time she's had this conversation.

3.30p.m. Filing time

I've finished the piece, working on the assumption that it is only the label that is wrong. Clive shows me how to submit via the Méthode system. I watch as it disappears from my folder and lands in the UK News feed. A few minutes later I see the UK News editor open it and start making some changes.

Moments later still an email arrives from the author of the study, confirming that the mistake is in the label and thanking me for finding it before the article is released. I'm happy to have helped, and even happier that the article says what I thought it said. My article is safely put to bed.

4p.m. - Ooops

I breathe too soon. One of my sources asks me to change their affiliation. I have to ring the news editor to see if the changes can be made. Another lesson learnt - changes are much easier to make before you file!

6.45p.m - getting the jump on tomorrow

I start looking for stories for Friday's science briefing. I find some stories about the other kind of birds and bees. They might get nudged aside by weightier pieces on cancer or the brain though. I intermittently check Méthode to see if my piece has been spiked but there is no news by the time I leave. I'll have to wait until the morning to see if the piece made it.

[1] HST - the "Holy Shit" Test. Such as Abu Dhabi consortium buys Manchester City? Holy Shit!"

1 comment:

DavidC said...

Congratulations on your first byline - in print and online! Fantastic!

Post a Comment