Still pinching herself that her blog about being jobless (may have) landed her this job as a trainee journalist, in our second instalment Erica Buist describes a typical day in which getting retweeted by blokes named Ricky from Reading take the rote out of the routine
There is no typical day at the Guardian. The 10 trainees have wildly different backgrounds, skills, qualifications and jobs. We sit at different desks, go to different meetings, pitch and work on different ideas, projects and campaigns with different departments and flow between them all. The only typical thing is the messiness of my desk. There’s a near-empty capless Evian bottle that my workmate and I are too polite to throw away, each of us assuming it must belong to the other.
However, I will attempt to give an idea of what goes on once we bleep our way into the Kings Cross offices …
9am – Plonk myself at my desk. Yes, plonk. It’s way too early in the day to simply sit myself down with the grace of a smug ballet dancer. Somewhere between logging on and perusing the news for feature ideas, I blink in disbelief. I have a job. In 2014. At one of the only newspapers I never want to fling across a room. How?
I got hired on the Guardian digital journalism scheme because of my blog, How to Be Jobless. Flabbergasted that I wasn’t immune to the job crisis affecting a million other young people, many of them as or more qualified than me, I started blogging anonymously, hoping to turn my jobless bleatings into something that would entertain people in the same position. Somehow, it worked. A little community of jobless, underemployed and thoroughly peeved young people built up, we nicknamed ourselves the pyjama-army, or “pyjarmy”, and I became the unofficial voice of the jobless youth. I like to think I’m here because Alan Rusbridger liked my blog, but it’s just as possible he hated it and thought giving me a job might be the ticket to shutting me up.
10am – Morning conference. Open to all staff, people wander in and gather on the soft yellow sofas, chatting away. When word gets out that Alan has started speaking we all hush and lean in to hear. (It sounds like we’re in a big room – we’re not, Alan just has a very soft voice. Other bosses get “Kick me” signs stuck on them; it’s about time someone stuck a tiny microphone on Alan.) He tells us about the Guardian’s online performance the day before, and section editors announce their departments’ content for the day.
Sometimes, guests are invited to talk (off the record, so no details, sorry!) about their organisations. At my second ever conference at the Guardian, the guest was Steve Coogan. I didn’t get to speak to him but I hugged him with my eyes. I don’t think he noticed.
11am – On the best type of day, someone will say to me, “Here’s a topic. We need you to write something funny on it, by lunchtime.” I used to do standup comedy, but found I preferred not looking at the audience, especially in dank underground comedy clubs on weeknights when I had a perfectly good pair of pyjamas at home. Now, if I write something serious, I have to comb through it picking out the jokes like bits of gum stuck in a child’s hair.
1-2pm – Lunch in the subsidised canteen, which serves as much kale as you imagine the Guardian canteen would.
2-5pm – Apart from writing, editing, pitching and researching, the afternoon usually involves an informal meeting with colleagues, as there’s always a project to discuss.
Once I was in a meeting and I took a sneaky glance at my phone. I had a Facebook message from a friend: “Ricky tweeted your article!”
What kind of message is that? Who the hell is Ricky? I typed a reply.
“Ricky Martin?” I joked, “That’s nice of him.”
“Not Ricky Martin, Ricky GERVAIS.”
I don’t know why, but I burst out laughing. It seemed absurd, yet it’s quite ordinary. Ricky Gervais is just a bloke. Of course he reads a newspaper. Why wouldn’t he tweet a story he sees? Especially one that happens to be about a service that streams his shows.
Ironically, that article was a learning curve for me. I was shadowing the TV editor for a day and felt particularly ignorant as I don’t have a TV. Even though your job as a journalist is to try to be an expert in whatever you happen to be writing about, I told the editor I only had Netflix, so blog ideas were unnervingly scarce. After some mad research to familiarise myself with the minefield of weirdness that is British television, she said “Why don’t you write about the fact that you have Netflix, and no TV?”
The experience taught me something important: there’s always an idea (and sometimes a bloke from Reading will share it).
It’s easy to forget the reach you have when you go from your own blog to a Guardian one, because on the face of it, the procedure is the same. You fact check, you spell check, you consider the reader, you link to relevant pages and sources, you publish. You reply “thank you” to kind comments. You try to ignore or laugh off the abusive ones. You get the bus home.
Which I do, around 5:30 or 6pm. But today wasn’t a typical day, not even by Guardian standards. Because today I made a breakthrough. I shook things up. I took a stand.
I threw out that Evian bottle.