Shirley Cheng 9m 2,158 #mediaintern
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work at a busy and popular national magazine, the kind which feature endlessly glossy pages, full of celebrities and their latest love interests, then you might be interested in hearing about my first day experience as an young media intern, after I’d managed to secure an internship at one such sought after weekly glossy publication.
I’d managed to wangle the position thanks to my journalism tutor, Ms Buntz who’d recommended me to the Editor who she had worked with on a magazine, ten years before she came to tutor at the busy London Uni where I studied print journalism, hoping fervently to become the next Julie Burchill or Janet Street Porter , only possibly not as annoying.
The first morning I arrived, the office, (which wasn’t nearly as glamous as I’d imagined it would be, being much smaller, with paint peeling from the window frames, and paper’s stacked in piles on every available surface) was humming, alive with the buzz of industry and Holly, a very frazzled looking but pretty blonde who looked to be only a few years older than my 21 years, ran up to greet me as I entered.
“You must be Shirley” she gasped panting as though she’d just run a marathon, loose tendrils of blonde hair framing her face “You’re on fashion, Jan told me to take you under my wing today, so you can shadow me” she instructed me, rather hastily, before spinning on her Christian Louboutins and clicking away, leaving me to tail her, feeling slightly bemused.
We arrived at a communal desk around which were arranged eight computers, each of which was occupied by a worker beavering away at the keyboard, and, in the middle of the table was the most enormous stack of shoes, bags, accessories, and clothes that I had ever seen, some still half in their packaging.
I squinted closer at one of the bags, a powder blue calf leather, was that a Birkin? I thought to myself, my mouth agape as it dawned on me that slung in amongst all the rest of the detritus was a bag that normally cost over £1000!
Holly must have seen me gawping for she grinned, “Ahhh yes, the Birkin, lovely isn’t it? They want us to do a puff piece on it for the magazine” she added nonchalantly, and I must have looked quizzical for she added, to clarify, “Puff piece is when they basically want you to write a promo about what they’re trying to flog, in this case the Birkin, but they want you to make it look as though it’s a genuine recommendation from the magazine, goes down better with the readers” she explained with a conspiratorial wink at me.
I nodded, pretending that I understood exactly what she was talking about , when really I didn’t have the foggiest idea but I wished I hadn’t looked quite so keen because the very next words out of Holly’s mouth filled me with apprehension.
“Actually, if you don’t mind, you can start by writing it for us, we’re all snowed under here as you can see” she gestured flamboyantly at her colleagues, gathered around the table, a couple of whom looked up at me, briefly, as if to see who the newcomer was, then just as quickly looked back at their computer screens, obviously coming to the conclusion that I was no one important.
I nodded weakly, “Uhh sure, uhh is there anything particular you want in the piece, I mean, I never wrote a puff piece before…” I floundered, stumbling and suddenly unsure of what exactly I was doing here.
Holly waved me away with a flick of the wrist “Ohhh it’s nothing really, super easy, look, hang on a minute I’ll give you the press release.” She turned to a pretty, dark skinned girl who was typing furiously away at something on her computer, “Leona do you have the press release that Hermes sent over with the bag sweetie?” she asked the girl, who nodded, and reached for a piece of paper that was half hanging out of a stack to her left, passing it to Holly, who scanned it briefly, before thrusting it under my rather unwilling nose.
“Here, just rewrite it, spin it a bit you know, oh and wait and I’ll give you a copy of a house style guide” Holly added, turning away again, this time to rummage through a stack of papers on her own desk as I stood there helpless.
Just then I heard a male voice at my ear as I felt a hand on my shoulder “Ahhhh so this must be the intern” the voice said, as I spun around to regard the speaker.
The speaker was rather attractive, with his tousle of brown hair and piercing blue eyes but something about his arrogant expression as he regarded me smiling, one eyebrow arched, bothered me a little, though I smiled back politely anyway.
“Hi nice to meet you, my name’s Steve,” he said with a grin as Holly interrupted, an expression of disdain on her face as she regarded him.
“Yeah, well some of us here have other names for you Steve” she addressed him pointedly, rolling her eyes at him before turning her back on him and turning to me as she thrust a wad of paper into my arms.
“This is our house style guide Shirley” she indicated to the papers, as I nodded, trying to ignore Steve, who was making a face behind Holly’s back, as she instructed me.
“Uhh ok so I read this and then take the press release and write to this style, making it into more of an article?” I asked, nervously, unsure of whether I could do exactly what they were asking of me, I was so fresh out of journalism college, that I was practically green behind the ears.
Holly nodded, looking pleased “yes that’s exactly it!” she exclaimed, still pointedly ignoring Steve, who stood there for a minute, then, bored by the lack of attention he was getting, left, stalking away across the office in a huff.
Curious I took the opportunity to ask Holly about what had just taken place between them.
“Who was that?” I enquired curiously to her, to which Holly made a face like she had just eaten something that tasted rather bitter.
“That…was Steve, well we call him Nasty Steve, or just asshole, he works in features, but you don’t need to worry about him, he won’t be bothering you over here and if he does, just let me know and I’ll soon make sure he doesn’t” she informed me, a hint of menace in her voice.
The journalist instincts that had been inculcated in me during training were piqued now and I pressed her, knowing I probably shouldn’t but curious all the same, “Why do you call him Nasty Steve though, I mean, what has he actually done?” I inquired.
Holly shook her head as if she despaired at the question, “More like what hasn’t he bloody done. But three main reason’s really. Firstly he stole a feature idea off of me and pitched it to the editor as his own, then he got all the credit for it when Jan went for it, which pissed me off no end. Secondly, he spends most of his time here, not working and slowly getting pissed all day while stealing other people’s ideas, and thirdly, we dated for about three months and he was a complete idiot. So yeah I and a lot of the other’s here feel the label’s richly deserved.”
I nodded, slowly, wow , there sure seemed to be a lot of office politics going on here , I thought, hoping that I wouldn’t find myself embroiled in this cauldron of intrigue but unable to help being curious all the same.
Holly spoke again “Ok Missy, enough of standing around talking about waste of space’s like that, you better crack on and get that article written on the Birkin , so we can stick it in the mag before it goes to print tomorrow morning,” she instructed me, and I felt my stomach flip over in apprehension at her words.
I tried not to show it though and nodded, trying to impart a professional aura as she showed me over to an empty workstation, “you can work here” she gestured, as I sat down at the computer screen, suddenly feeling very lost.
The next two to three hours passed in a hazy blur of frantic activity for me, as I tried to get my head around writing my very first article, albeit a not very highbrow one, for a national magazine.
I wrote and rewrote that thing, the perfectionist in me wanting to get it absolutely word perfect before I turned it in for Holly’s approval and I must have poured over the House Style guide as well as that stupid press release until my eyes burned.
Eventually after about eight thousand revisions, I deemed it suitable for Holly’s inspection and, because I didn’t have her email address, quickly printed off a copy, before walking up to her gingerly, the article in my hands.
She looked up from her workstation and smiled at me, peering over the frames of her yellow, funky, chunky framed DCNY glasses, and I thrust it nervously at her “Here, uhh I finished it, hope it’s ok?” I said, tentatively, my stomach in knots with nerves , completely unsure of whether it was a total fail or not.
I stood there for a moment while she scanned the paper, her face not giving anything away at all, and it seemed like forever before she finally stopped reading.
“Perfect job!” she exclaimed to me, a pleased expression on her face and I stood there, stunned, not quite believing what I was hearing.
“Uhhh really there’s nothing wrong with it at all?” I faltered, my tutor’s had always given me good marks at Uni but this was the real world, and I’d certainly not expected to get it right quite so quickly.
But Holly shook her head, obviously pleased with what I had created “Nope, none at all, you even nailed our house style, so bonus points there and I’ll be submitting this in the mag with a byline for you for when it goes to print tomorrow as well” she smiled brightly at me.
A by-line. My very first and in a national magazine too, my stomach flipped again only this time in excitement and anticipation at seeing my name in print, writ large.
“Wow. Uhh thank you, thank you so much for giving me a by-line” I mumbled, still stunned by the revelation that I was going to be seeing my name in print.
Holly seemed to pick up on my rather obvious excitement, smiling at me “well, since you’ve proved yourself to be such a bright spark and now you’ve cut your teeth you can turn your talents to this rather large stack of press releases on my desk, all of which need the same treatment” she grinned, gesturing to the pile of papers.
I nodded, eagerly, not caring about all the extra work that I’d suddenly been given, still high on the exhilaration of making such a good impression on my very first day on the job, adding keenly “Oh, sure, just uhh, give me the ones you want me to work on and I’ll get started on them right away for you.”
Holly grinned again “Tell you what, you can make a start on them tomorrow, we’re all going for an after work drink now at the Slug and Lettuce, you should join us Shirley, I’m buying, just avoid that asshat Steve, he’ll be there too” she added, with a wink, as if the two of us were sharing a private joke.
I nodded “Sure, I’d love to” I said, quickly, secretly feeling rather pleased with myself and more than a little bit excited too, my very first day interning for a national magazine and I’d already made quite the first impression , not only had I gotten my very first by-line, but now , here I was, going to be drinking with real journalists.
My career as an aspiring writer seemed to be looking up indeed, I thought to myself with a smile as I scurried away excitedly to tart myself up in the bathroom, glad I had had the perspicacity to bring a few essential cosmetic “supplies” with me when I’d packed my bag that morning so I could freshen up my look before the evening’s adventures.