As quite a few of you already know, I spent last week on a work experience placement at The Times. I know. The Times. I was blown away as well. It’s not the sort of place I would ever approach for work experience – I have no contacts there and really, why would they want me? Enter Kirsty Baker, my mum’s old boss and my big boss too, actually. I got a text asking me to send her my CV. I was a little confused but I went with it. About a week later I was forwarded an email; she’d got me a week at The Times. I was MINDBLOWN. I was going to spend a week on the Features desk. We arranged the dates and everything was set, though I still wasn’t convinced it was actually going to happen! Then I got all of the admin emails, the confidentiality forms and direction to the office in central London. Eek, it was going to happen!
I was absolutely terrified on my journey to London on Monday – it’s so big and what if I get lost and I don’t know anybody and ARGH. The offices for the times are split between two floors in a gorgeous, swish glass building in Thomas More Square (near the Tower of London, in case you were wondering) and I was suitably intimidated. I went in, announced my presence and got myself an ID card I would need to do just about anything in the building!
Monday was slightly disappointing. By lunchtime I was wondering if I’d wasted that £103 I’d spent on a weekly train ticket that morning and my one week off from Hell on Earth (ie. Work). I was told to trawl through media sites, newspapers, Twitter and everything like it for features for Times Two – the everyday pull-out in the paper. Not that exciting. Then around mid-afternoon when I was having serious doubts I was asked to trawl through the stack of publishing catalogues that Times Two get sent to pick out books I think would fit with the daily themes of the paper. This I enjoyed; finally in my element! I went home feeling slightly better, but still a little doubtful.
I spent most of Tuesday researching for one of the girls who is compiling a bit feature. This may sound boring to lots of people, but I actually enjoy reading up on subjects I know very little about and wouldn’t ever look into under my own steam. It was a bit of a university flash-back actually!
I continued with different research tasks for most of the week, mostly for that same pull-out feature. I only really started to get to do more interesting things on Thursday when I was invited to sit in on the sheet (I think it was called that, anyway...) meeting when the front pages, contents and bigger features for the next week are planned out and placed in the paper. It was really interesting to see the difference between the things planned out far in advance and those put together only a day or so before going to print. I also got to go upstairs to the big news floor and meet the woman who set my work experience up. She gave me a tour of all of the different sections and got me into afternoon conference. Conference happens twice a day: first thing and then again around mid-afternoon. That’s when stories are confirmed and discussed, including any changes or developments and when reports are coming in.
Then on Friday, after more researching, I got to do what I’d been wanting to do all week: I got to visit the Books section. I went to the meeting (a lot smaller than the other two I’d been too!) where the reviews going in the next edition (8th March) and when they were coming in/if they had already come in, placements of ads and images. Then I went on to proof-read some reviews, find cuttings for some new releases, find out which books other papers reviewed last week and finally, the best of all: I got to help open three big, grey mail bags of book packages. That was fun.
I was rather sad to say goodbye to the girls and guy of the features team. Especially as I was back to my actual job the day after! It had been so nice to spend a week being able to eat, drink and pee whenever I desired!
Things You Didn’t Know About The Times
- They have super-fancy dark-wood-panelled loos that you need your ID card to get into.
- It’s not loud and frantic at all, but pretty quiet and calm and friendly.
- The building houses a canteen so posh it can’t really be called a canteen. Endless choices of full hot meal, baguettes, sandwiches (fresh and packaged), drinks, deserts, salad and olive bar. And it’s not even expensive!
- Their coffee machine makes instant hot chocolate that doesn’t taste like crap. Winner.
- The lifts are very confusing.
- From my desk I had a gorgeous view of the Eye, the Gherkin and the Shard.
I’d like to work in the books department.