This week on ‘Grad Talk’ we’re chatting to Leaf, who graduated from Magdalene in 2014 with a degree in French and Italian. Now a feature writer for the Sunday Times, here she discusses her life as a journalist, the perks of internships and why it’s ok if you don’t land your dream job as soon as you graduate.
So, what do you do now?
I’m a feature writer for the Sunday Times. I write interviews mostly but also general features, book reviews and occasional news pieces. I do new poetry collection reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and have written a novel, which has just won the Pageturner Prize and will (touch wood) be published next year. I’m about to start a book review show on Talk Radio and I do news shows for them quite regularly, running through the day’s top trending stories.
… and how did you get there?
I spent lots of my summers since I started at Cambridge interning in different newspapers and magazines to work out what sort of work environments I vibed with most. That was helpful in that it narrowed my options down – I realized I liked newspapers most of all, and wouldn’t thrive in monthly women’s magazines which have more languorous deadlines.
In terms of practical journalistic experience I did quite a bit at Cambridge – The Tab, the Cambridge Globalist, my own College’s magazine which I co-edited. I spent my year abroad at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and wrote art exhibition reviews for a paper there.
I guess I tried to study hard enough to maintain decent grades while at Cambridge, which was instrumental in helping me to win the Henry Fellowship in my final year. It’s a scholarship that supports students who want to do a year at Harvard or Yale. At Yale I did some teaching, a broad range of classes and worked on its newspapers – focusing more on economics and making podcasts. After Yale I interned at the Financial Times then got a job at the Sunday Times, where I’ve been since August 2015.
Describe a typical day.
Roughly speaking I have three types of days – an ordinary office day, a writing day and a press day.
On a normal office day I arrive at the News Building in London Bridge at 9am then read the papers (The Times, the DM and sometimes the FT, plus bits and pieces of other papers). I spend the day thinking up feature ideas, trying to get exclusive interviews with people who are relevant to that week’s news, researching individuals whose interviews I have already secured, reading books that are soon to be published to see if the new releases contain fun or moving stories. I’ll have meetings with the features team once or twice a day to exchange ideas and go through what articles we have sorted for the coming Sunday. Continue reading Grad Talk: Life beyond the bubble with Leaf Arbuthnot