By Alexandra Sutton, 3rd Year English student
Over the summer I was lucky enough to swing an internship with The Times - special thanks to the Oxford University English Faculty for organising the placement.
The program runs every year and is open to Oxford English students - places at The Times, The Sun and the TLS are offered in exchange for some examples of student journalism, a cover letter and your CV. Very simple and very useful! I applied on a bit of a whim, so I was a little shocked but very giddy when I found out I'd got the placement. Though I was secretly a touch disappointed not to get The Sun (a place of mystery and garishness) I was super excited when I started my two weeks at The Times. Once I'd learned how to work the lifts and stopped getting lost in the big, shiny building, I was good to go.
I spent my first week on the Register Desk, the part of the newspaper that runs pieces on faith, military, architecture, weddings and the like. Its also the place where obituaries of the notable and often quirky are published, alongside frequent entries on former politicians and scandalous old admirals. Though the pace was a little slower than say, the news desk, everyone was extremely lovely and showed me the ropes, and I attended the conference every day, in which the Editor and section editors plan out the paper for the day. That part was absolutely fascinating - it's a strange thing watching the news happen the day before it's in the papers, it makes it pretty much an impossible task to keep on top of everything, but to be fair, The Times do a pretty good job. It certainly was interesting to consider the future of print journalism alongside 24 hour news.
After a few days proving my worth to the Register desk (i.e. being nice and showing them that I had basic literacy skills) they let me write my first obituary. It was on a chap named Jim Buck , the first man to professionalise dog-walking. Legendary, and extremely interesting to write. At first I considered obituary writing to be a bit morbid, but after I learned a bit more about it, I was oddly hooked. It is a great way to commemorate someone's achievements, and it feels like you are doing a good thing. Plus, it's one of the only parts of the paper, other than comment and leading articles, where they let you leave a little colour in your writing!
The second week was spent on the Foreign News desk, which was infinitely more stressful and involved watching some very efficient people ring people all over the world, alternating between commissioning pieces and telling correspondents to put on their flak jacket immediately. My job was to not get in the way, absorb as much as I could, and make neat little boxes of facts about, say, the Peruvian drug trade or Boko Haram. It just so happened that during my week there, Egypt went crazy, so it was really quite incredible to watch the way a newsroom deals with a breaking news story/international crisis on that scale. It does gets very heated.
The placement also included a trip to the print plant to watch lots of lovely newspapers get made, which was actually a lot more exciting than it sounds. On the whole, it was a really valuable experience - getting to ask the editors and journalists lots of questions and get a feel for how a newspaper runs made me assess whether it was the right career choice for me, and the whole atmosphere of the place was really stimulating. Plus, I met some great people, and am now a regular contributor to The Times obituary page - it involves checking whether any interesting people have died every morning, but it pays very nicely. All in all, an excellent two weeks!