If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to work as an editor, then I’m about to give you all the inside information. Not that there’s anything sinister or shocking to discover. This is more just the excited ramblings of a very, very lucky girl who once got to spend two weeks working with one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world.
One of the first things I noticed about The Guardian/Observer offices, after gawking at the beautiful architectural structure, was that it is very high security. Compared to other offices I’ve been in, where you literally just need a lanyard with your photographic ID on it, The Guardian takes its security very seriously. Everyone has little swipe cards and there are huge glass barriers that restrict access to the official offices, the toilets, the lifts… There are no paper passes or a person that can come and sign you in. It’s simply, no swipe card? No entry.
The offices are enormous and there are a lot more people working on the paper than I could have imagined. I didn’t expect it to be small or quiet, but it honestly felt like I was working alongside a million other people across all the floors. I was therefore surprised to find that I was given a computer login and real editorial tasks to get on with, within an hour of being there. Yes, that’s right. I was not expected to sit and gawk at the editors, I was invited into their personal space to work alongside them. If they were doing tea runs, I was asked if I would like them to make me a cup of tea. If somebody had a pack of biscuits, I was offered one. Contrary to what many sources will tell you, I really wasn’t treated as an invisible.
I was lucky enough to be invited into several conferences in the editor’s office throughout the week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I was working specifically with The New Review team of The Observer, who are all such absolutely lovely people, its difficult to imagine where the stereotype of standoffish, very elitist editors even comes from. I got to sit in the Editor’s office (John Mulholland) along with all the other important editors as they discussed plans for the upcoming issue. There was a round table in the centre of the room and huge glass windows with spectacular views overlooking Regents Canal, It was all very much like something straight out of a film and I felt so, so lucky.
The atmosphere in the conference was anything but tense. Everyone was very relaxed, with lots of jokes bouncing around the room, laughter and just easy discussion about relevant news items and suggestions for different interesting things that viewers might want to read about.
If anyone manages to pick up a copy of The Observer this Sunday, or last week’s Sunday issue then you’ll be able to see two things I worked on! I got to conduct an interview with a Swedish graphic designer for the Snapshots section of the paper, transcribe it and then write the text to go with the images. For this Sunday… well you’ll just have to wait and see. The online version of the graphic designs can be viewed (and shared!) here and my second Snapshots feature will be out this Sunday 5 March! It’s a very small section of the paper but it is still a huge achievement and massively exciting!
On Fridays, as the week draws to a close, the editors get a lot busier and things start getting a lot more hectic. I had to transcribe a number of recorded interviews and work on a few research tasks for the next issue. Research tasks can be from finding the most popular speed reading apps and writing up how they work, to teasing through different strains on the web for contacts who we could potentially interview about renowned historian Yuval Hurari.
One of the other tasks I got to do might sound boring to people who don’t love books, but I actually really enjoyed it! The literary editor for the paper works three days a week, so whenever she wasn’t present, I got to open all the packages that were sent to her. Oh my god. Being surrounded by so many new and exciting books that haven’t even been released yet was like an actual dream come true. Some of them were proof copies, some of them were the paperback versions of ones that have already been released in hardback. But honestly, getting to be around so many new releases was just amazing. I got a sneak peek into Paula Hawkins upcoming release Into The Water and I even found the time to read my seminar leader Alex Preston’s upcoming release, As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and Books which I will be reviewing on this blog shortly!
The most important thing I learned, is that no two days at The Observer are the same. It’s a diverse role, where you can go from being chilled out and chatty to rushed off your feet in the space of twenty four hours. And I love that because it keeps things interesting! I had the most incredible time working for the people on The New Review. I’ve gained so many valuable skills and I know that this is definitely what I want to pursue as a career now. So if you are able to gain work experience, even if you’re a third year like me, then it’s really never too late!