Interviews – Media – Roxanne McMeekin

Roxanne McMeekin, 24, is a reporter for financial magazine FT Mandate. She started as an editorial assistant at Reed Elsevier, publisher of science journals, before moving to The Financial Times business division

What does your job involve?
I write news, features and news analysis pieces. I interview lots of people either over the telephone, in their offices or over lunch if I’m lucky. I’ve just finished a story on Cazenove, the broking partnership which has just floated on the stock exchange. It was really interesting to see how such a traditional financial institution revolutionised and one arm of their business was very specific to our publication as we deal with fund management.

How were you promoted from editorial assistant?
I worked as an editorial assistant for five months for another magazine within the same building. I had written a couple of features for FT Mandate and when a vacancy came up, they asked me if I was interested. I didn’t really have a formal interview, since they knew what I was capable of. It’s very much a matter of getting your foot in the door as a lot of positions are advertised internally. It’s up to you to be proactive and let editors know that you are available.

What sort of training did you receive?
I was given no formal training at all. I was thrown in at the deep end with absolutely no training in finance or journalism. The idea is that you start as editorial assistant dealing with administration and write the occasional article, thereby gaining experience. You ask the editor whether you can write various news articles and as it is up to you, you can ease yourself in at a comfortable speed. Some editors will take you through what you have written and let you know where you went wrong. However, others just change what you have written or simply not publish it at all.

What has been the high point in your role so far?
I went to California for a week for FT Mandate to cover a conference and to do some interviews. I went to visit a huge pension fund, and although it sounds ridiculous, it was one of the most interesting things I have ever done. It was the biggest public pension fund in the world and I managed to sit in on their board meeting where people were playing with billions and screaming at each other about what they should be spending their money on.

Was the role what you expected?
I hadn’t had any experience in journalism, but the only surprise I found was that we are constantly taken to parties and out to meals. That is definitely a high point of financial journalism. I have become very blasé about smoked salmon!

What sort of characteristics does your role require?
You need to be outgoing enough to tackle financiers. You don’t need to be bolshy, but you must have the guts to ask questions that people don’t necessarily want to hear especially when you are having trouble getting to grips with the subject matter. You are often bluffing and hoping the financier doesn’t realise how little you know. I don’t think that this differs from other forms of journalism, as a good journalist should always be challenging the people they speak to. It makes for pretty boring articles if you’re not tough enough to cut through the sales tactics of people who, in this industry, are used to being interviewed.

What advice would you give to people trying to break into financial journalism?
Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about finance because you are taken on in the understanding that you will pick up the knowledge of the industry as you go along. Also, don’t necessarily worry about being trained in journalism, either. A lot of people don’t really rate some of these journalism courses. There are a lot of people editing publications who don’t have formal training in journalism.

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