Thou shalt not double-up on machine coffee, and other lessons I failed to learn at the Guardian

guardian observer 2

I wasn’t sure how to cover my time at the Observer on this weekly no-longer-being-a-student column, or whether the experience was worth broadcasting at all. I could have hashed together a detailed two-week report – but there are more entertaining, meticulously-crafted equivalents out there. I suppose I could have whipped up a local/national newspaper head-to-head (as I’ve lined up two weeks at the Ham & High to follow) but Wannabe Hacks has it pretty much covered.

It’s a big deal nonetheless. So, what of it? Since I’m still recovering from this untimely bout of pretend-to-be-a-grown-up-for-ten-days, I’ve decided to instead thread together a series of largely-incoherent anecdotes (in the form of four ‘Guardian Commandments’) detailing my brief time within the hyper-insulated King’s Cross bubble.

WARNING: This article is not a Wannabe Hacks-like column providing you with some vague and marginally-helpful understanding of what it’s like to fanny about on work experience at a newspaper. This article is far more up itself.

FIRST DAY RECAP: It’s all downhill from here!

Though shalt not double-up on machine coffee

There’s nothing you can do once you’ve told the coffee machine to pour your drink from its multi-purpose nozzle. But since your cup has already been “filled” once, the alarming rate at which this second helping of lukewarm coffee gushes out of the automated barista may present a problem – with the liquid slowly reaching, then surpassing, the brim.

There’s nothing you can do; the machine’s mocking doop-bee-doo-deep rings while what-passes-for-latte spills down the side of your mug. There’s nothing you can do – truly – aside from stare at the floor while a surrounding gaggle of Guardian journalists collectively tilt their heads, sigh, and think to themselves: ‘Who on Earth gave this dawdling moron the privilege of a freelance pass?’ 

Though shalt not confuse the Guardian with the Observer

Yes, I lied. It would be disingenuous to suggest I learned anything at the Guardian, when – in fact – I wasn’t actually working there. Tucked away on the first floor behind a pillar or two resides an entirely different set of reporters responsible for profucing an entirely different newspaper – easy to forget – since the Observer remains very similar to its daily counterpart both in terms of layout, and editorial agenda.

It is a distinction you should know – but would be forgiven for failing to understand – like being asked to recall which flavour of M&Ms, chocolate or peanut, was the brand ‘original’. But everything changes once you stumbled into a heated conversation among staff as to how the wider readership is generally unable to make this distinction – and how the Guardian itself would rather all content fell under ‘brand Guardian’ – casting aside the Observer to relative anonymity. Inter-office politics: there is no escape.

Though shalt not wear a tie to work

Being #spotted with a tie knotted around your neck in Kings Place can only be worsened by committing the cardinal sin of not wearing jeans, such is GNM’s hipness levels. My first error of the fortnight came before I had even started, as I had barely figured out how to dress myself, a task that would not typically faze a six-year-old.

I tried on a variety of shirt-tie combinations before settling for an outfit that made me look like a pre-pubescent Barclays trainee. On my first day at a place of work I could kill to secure a future at, I cut the figure of an overdressed, tie-donning work experience nonce; wearing an oversized shirt and baggy trousers with a top button fully-fastened in 25-degree-plus heat. No, I didn’t cycle in, why do you ask?

Though shalt not consult Wikipedia as a source

No matter how fantastic a tool Wikipedia may have been for cramming in the final moments leading to a crunching exam, it is far from 100 per cent accurate. And it just so happens that as a newspaper you need to be. Actually, no, this isn’t necessarily true – there are some rags which get away with spewing bile befitting of the seven circles of Hell – but it should be.

Check your sources. Double check your sources. Triple check your sources. Leave everything alone for a while. Then check your sources again. You should also be careful not to plagiarise. It’s simple, yet needs to be reiterated.


2 thoughts on “Thou shalt not double-up on machine coffee, and other lessons I failed to learn at the Guardian

  1. Pingback: Once you’ve been spat from the bubble, you’d do anything to get back in. Anything. | Keumars Afifi-Sabet

  2. Pingback: Local journalism is far more than chasing leads for runaway aves | Keumars Afifi-Sabet

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