Journalism internship battle: second round, interview punch

If you followed the first round of the fight: me vs journalism internship, you might agree that the result was a draw. Already exhausted from admin forms by the time I got in the ring; my opponent clearly had the advantage. But, I struck back hard and managed to make my way to the ring for round two.

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If ever you intend to go into journalism, the good thing to know is that you do your own hours. Nobody is going to be behind you to check that you are sitting in front of your high-tech-mac computer at 9am sharp. The only constraint: the work MUST be done on time.

So, sitting at my desk at around 9:30am, e-mails coming in, telephone plugged in and occasionally ringing, broadband internet connection working full speed, I was all ready to do some good work.

Focusing on a piece for the Monday paper on new training schemes available for unemployed people in the area, (not so much a smiley summer topic but of great actuality since unemployment figures continue to rocket in France despite the new socialist government) excitement mingled with anxiety were making my heart beat to deal with such an important subject.

After a couple of phone calls, I could write down in red ink in my diary my first official interview with the regional director of the national unemployment organisation. Easy! To mention the name of the newspaper was enough to get all the necessary attention to be taken seriously, and I cannot deny the help of the phone, giving to my voice the credibility my young looking face might have undermined.

On the day, the editor handed me the keys of one of the company’s car, a nice little grey Opel (Vauxhall) with air conditioning and all: Royal. There I was, off on the road, reporting.

After almost an hour of enjoying the comfortable vehicle, I arrived at a massive bright new building in front of which people all suited up were bustling about, on the phone, smoking cigarettes, drinking dark espressos out of plastic cups and chatting about serious stuff in small groups.

The main entrance was proportional to the building and a stop at the huge marble desk was mandatory to be allowed through the high security barrier and up to the floors. Only in exchange of my ID was I given an electronic personalised pass which, once scanned, opened the glass doors; the director’s secretary would wait for me at the exit of the 4th floor’s lift.

Just before leaving the office, back in the editing room, I remembered the words of a journalist “you will be welcomed as a king” (a man’s world, “as a king”, no queen…). But, I soon became aware of my royal status: friendly welcome, coffee, strong and grateful hand shake, there was no doubt that none of this was the result of a purely generous attitude but rather the mistrustful and soapy smile of the one who fears the power of the media.

The coolness of the large conditioned office was not enough to balance the heat of the stimulating interview. Over an hour of questions and often restrained answers was pumping my energy: the fight was raging.

Indeed, an interview is another battle (I should add here that I don’t usually compare all of life as a permanent fight). Two people, stoic, facing one another; one ready to say only what is going to make him shine, the other decided to extract the gloss out of the picture to have an idea of the real colours.

An interview is thus a balance, sometimes a compromise between what someone wants to say and what someone else wants to write. There is no king, nor queen, but just the noble cause of seeking information. It is a difficult exercise which, no doubt, needs practice and determination.

I had most of the information I needed, and although I knew the man had took advantage of my inexperience; I had managed to squeeze in some uncomfortable questions for which I had partial answers.

I shook the director’s hand goodbye, took the lift to the hall, passed the glass doors, exchanged my pass for my I.D and drove off.

Back at the office, I spent the rest of the week gathering more data and calling up more people in relation to the business to have a diversity of views. Unfortunately, the lack of time and money in small agencies make them prefer telephone interviews, more difficult to lead since you can’t put a facial expression on the voice.

But, after drowning under drafts and scribbled papers and notes, I produced a decent size article. Though the piece was proofread, no one checked it and I was given no feedback on my work either. It was as if I had naturally done the work that everyone was expecting from me.

The editor was happy to have an extra little brain to compensate for the summer under-staff, and I must admit, I was delighted to have, on my own, made the “economy” page of the paper. (It’s always a great feeling to see your name printed in bold letters at the end of your work).

The second round was not only a victory; I was now a full member of the team.

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