A Magazine Intern Writes

Posted on February 15, 2008 in Uncategorized

As I walked through the revolving doors of one of London’s most fashionable publishing houses, I must admit that I did so with my pre-conceived assumptions intact. It’s not my fault though, it’s Ugly Betty’s, and the timid Andy Sacks from the, The Devil Wears Prada. Those girls convinced me that, should I not be dressed head to toe in Chanel (or, indeed, Prada) I would be doomed to suffer a nine-to-five filled with ridicule, or face a life changing, work-inspired makeover that would see me lose my friends, my boyfriend and all moral grounding (don’t worry though, in the end Andy Sacks gets a job writing for what appears to be a not-so-exciting daily newspaper. Morals intact.) Personally, I see nothing morally wrong with the fashion industry, or the publishing houses that drive it – it’s a huge and successful part of publishing, and an incredibly lucrative part at that. I wondered, as I spun around in the little revolving door, if the kind of characters that work at fictional Runway and Mode could ever be the cogs that keep the giant machines of fashion publishing going.

I’m pleased to report that I can be pretty certain in my estimation that 99% of the characters in The Devil wears Prada and Ugly Betty would struggle to survive a day in the office of a real life fashion magazine. It’s a really driven environment with tight deadlines and high standards. With the event of online publishing, which magazine publications are eagerly embracing, the deadlines are even tighter, with sites being updated daily, if not hourly.

As I entered the office I was greeted by one of the editors who asked me what I wanted to do while I was there. ‘Well, I would quite like to do some editorial work’ I replied, expecting a ‘Well, lets see if you can sort the mail and fill the photocopiers first’ kind of reply. My request was met with a warm, ‘Sure. No problem. Let’s give you a few things to do and, if they’re publishable, we’ll put them on the website today.’ It wasn’t exactly a double page feature that required lots of fieldwork, but it was editorial, and it didn’t involve post or photocopiers.

I wrote a couple of short news articles detailing the latest updates from the world of fashion. Luckily, they were publishable, so my next assignment was bigger – a feature on health tips. I mused over this one for quite a while (while eating the second of the three chocolate croissants I had bought that morning- needless to say, I decided not to give too much food advice). The next assignment was love life tips- which I wrongly interpreted as purely sexual, failing to include other love life related angles such as dating tips, tips on being single, and so on. I now worry that the editor thinks I’m seedy. The grammar was flawless though, and the writing clever, so who cares.

I work next to two other interns, one of which has taken it upon herself to be my mentor, despite having only been there two weeks more than me. The other intern has been there for two months and has never taken me aside to show me what paper should be put in the photocopier, or how to order stationary from the wholesaler. I often get interrupted while I’m typing important snippets of health advice (‘Should your healthy regime lapse, may I recommend Pret’s chocolate croissants’) with comments such as ‘Why don’t you take those recycle bags down to the ground floor so you get to know the building a bit, yeah?’ To be honest, I don’t quite know how to handle it. Should I say yes in case the editor overhears me rejecting the demand and assumes I’m lazy? Or should I refuse to take advice from an intern, who clearly has no authority over me whatsoever? (I like the latter one better, but only because I don’t want to take the recycle bins down to the ground floor, or learn about photocopiers and the many varieties of paper.)

Aside from a boss-like co-intern, I’ve managed to land a pretty insightful internship. Magazine publishing is fast-paced with ‘have a copy ready in 15 minutes’ type-deadlines. I love the buzz in the office and the thrill of one tight deadline assignment after another – with a bit of stationery wholesaler education thrown in for good measure in between.

Bright Lights Big City