Saturday, July 7, 2012

The want ad Al Tompkins wants all journalism students to read

Poynter Institute's Al Tompkins sent out this email yesterday with the order to have our students read this want ad. He wrote:
It is what they will be up against:

Company: Dolan Media/New Orleans CityBusiness
REPORTERS - Don't bother reading this if you
have a cut-and-paste cover letter
New Orleans, Louisiana
Job Status:  Full-time
Salary:  Not Specified
Ad Expires: 
August 9, 2012
Job ID: 1376679

As you can tell from the subject line, we're not going to waste our time with those of you who shotgun your resume and cover letter on a daily basis. Let's face it, many of us have jobs we want to leave, and we can smell desperation from a mile away (strangely, it's reminiscent of bacon). So take the time and write an original cover letter if you want to be considered a candidate for a job in our newsroom. Tell me specifically why you want to work with us and why we should consider you for the job.

A strong preference will be shown to those candidates with newsroom experience. If you're leaving behind an unsatisfactory career in one of the following -- a) financial advisement; b) cosmetology; or c) rodeo clown -- we're probably not your best choice. But if you're a rodeo clown with impeccable grooming skills who can offer sound financial advice, maybe we should talk. 

For the rest of you, let's save us both time. If any of these descriptions fit or look similar to what's in your cover letter, DO NOT APPLY for this position:
o You've "always wanted to be a writer"
o Your best story came from covering a meeting
o You prefer conducting most of your interviews over the phone
o (INSERT CITY HERE) has always appealed to you as an interesting place to work and live
o You feel news releases are the best places to find story ideas
o College professors still make up the bulk of your references
o You prefer "flexible" deadlines

Are you still reading? Good. Nice to know you have a decent attention span, Zippy.

So you've probably figured out by now that New Orleans CityBusiness isn't your typical business newspaper or your typical newsroom. Sure, we will always strive to provide useful information to our readers who typically own or run businesses, but our ultimate goal is telling a compelling story. Numbers might be interesting and they're often important, but stories about people tend to be the most compelling. Ipso facto (you're supposed to be impressed with our use of Latin), we want to tell people stories about business. Not fluffy stories about how business is great and the CEO who's just grand. We want to report and write the difficult stories, ask the difficult questions. 

We tell these stories on our website, on our newsroom blog, in our twice-daily email updates and in our weekly newspaper. So we want a reporter capable of using all of those outlets to tell a story, and to know when the story calls for one outlet over the other. We place a heavy emphasis on our online content, so we're interested in reporters who can break away from the byline-story mentality and print schedule and report comfortably in the new media landscape.

Solid journalism remains at the heart of what we do, and you will be challenged to step up your game from day one. Is your story predictable? Is your story important? Will your story answer "Why?"
If you don't respond well to being challenged in the newsroom, this isn't the place for you. If you can handle constructive feedback and contribute your own opinions to making our stories better, you might be a good fit. Are you willing to grow as a journalist?

If you are, send me your mind-blowing cover letter. If you don't think it's mind-blowing, at least make it sincere and original. If it's lame, I might just post it here so that you are mocked and scorned. (Actually, I'm checking with the legal department to see if I can do it; look out if I get the green light)

I also want to see your best work - the top three stories where you know you just nailed it. Email them to me at DO NOT CALL ME. I trust that your writing and reporting will do all the talking for you.
Good luck.

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