Write a Winning Cover Letter for the Media Job You Want
Starting a conversation with the person who may be your next boss begins with writing an effective media cover letter. Even experienced media professionals make critical errors, usually, by being in a rush to get their resume posted and thinking their video, audio or print clips are all that matter.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time Required: 45 Minutes
- Start with the basics of applying for a media job. Call the station or publication to make sure the editor or news director still works there. Also, verify spellings and the company's address.
- Double check your letter for typos and grammatical mistakes. A hiring manager may interpret any errors though you're a sloppy employee or not detail-oriented. Remember, you're in an industry where the details count. To an editor or news director, typos in a cover letter mean typos in their print or on-air products.
- Grab attention with your first sentence or two. "I am interested in the reporter opening I saw posted on your station's website" is how most candidates will start their cover letter. Think of something different. Saying how much you "really want/need this job" is also a turnoff. If you didn't want the job, you wouldn't be applying. Put whatever is the most compelling reason you should be hired at the top of your letter. The editor or news director won't make it to the end if the beginning is boring.
- Look at the content. Make sure you sell yourself with each paragraph. Decide which information is relevant to the company and eliminate the rest. For example, if you have 20 years in the business, there's no need to include awards you received in college. Add to the information the news director sees from your actual media resume. Avoid simply repeating it.
- The most effective cover letters are also brief. To make sure yours is read, keep it less than one page and make good use of white space. Break up your letter into short paragraphs and don't be afraid to use bullet points or other visual aids to draw the eye to the most important points you want to make. The truth is, an editor or news director will likely only skim your letter. Skim it yourself to see what you pick up in less than 30 seconds. Rearrange sentences or paragraphs to improve your visual impact.
Tips for Writing Your Cover Letter
- Customize each cover letter to the job description. The more you draw out the details from the ad, the more you look like the right candidate to fill the position.
- Do your homework. Study the publication or station and use that information in your cover letter. For example, a TV station's big community outreach project could be a canned food drive at Christmas. Mention this in your cover letter to demonstrate that you know something about that particular media outlet. That alone won't get you the job but it sets you apart from all of the other candidates sending generic cover letters.
- If you and your potential boss have a mutual acquaintance, mention that person as long as you're sure they would give you a good reference. The media business is a small world so use the people you've come in contact with over the years to help position yourself as a less risky job candidate than someone who's completely unknown to the editor or news director.
- Include the best time to contact you. Media professionals work crazy hours. You may currently work on the night shift and aren't at your best to take a phone call from your next boss at 8 a.m.
- Have a friend read your cover letter. A fresh set of eyes can catch errors you may have missed or clunky wording that distracts from your cover letter's power.
Review an Example
You can view a sample of a media job cover letter below, or download the template below.
Cover Letter Sample for a Media Job
1234 Beverly Avenue
Nashville, TN 37027
March 25, 2019
1234 Magnolia Avenue
Nashville, TN 37027
Dear Mr. Lewis,
It was with both sadness and excitement that I learned from Sarah Connors that she will be retiring from her position at WXYZ. Sarah’s penetrating newscasts have long been as ubiquitous a part of my morning as coffee and my Nolensville Road work commute to WABC, where I am an award-winning news writer. Her voice and presence will be missed. However, I’m afraid I also couldn’t help cheering with excitement, since her departure means that you will now be looking for her replacement – and I am eager to step into her shoes.
During my five years at WABC, I’ve had the great opportunity to hone my “nose for news” and my copywriting skills – talents that will serve me well as I transition into my ultimate career goal of becoming a broadcast news anchor / reporter. Qualifications that I bring to the table include:
- Repeated success being the first to learn about and break emerging news stories, including WABC’s coverage of the Harmony Music Studio arson and Mayor Barry’s resignation (the latter of which earned our news team an Emmy Award for “Best Newscast”).
- Effectiveness coordinating high-profile community outreach projects, similar to your own Christmas canned food drive, such as our clothing drive for the homeless and our “News in the Schools” program.
- Broadcast experience gained during substitute assignments for WABC’s regular anchors and as a student field reporter for the University of Tennessee’s WUTK-FM (“The Rock”).
- A Bachelor of Science in Communication from the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media (emphasis: broadcast journalism).
Thank you for your time and consideration in reviewing this application; I would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you for a personal interview, and will be calling the station in a few weeks to check up on the status of my candidacy.