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Do you want to be a journalist? Write the best journalism cover letter

There is a lot of stiff competition for journalists’ jobs. Journalists write well and are good communicators, which means that they take time to craft a journalism cover letter. It is the cover letter rather than a CV or resumé that usually encourages an editor or a Human Resource (HR) person to read the accompanying CV. This means that the cover letter has to be attention-grabbing, lively and fresh, not full of hackneyed phrases and clichés.


Check your letter very carefully and do this more than once. It should be grammatically perfect and there should be no spelling mistakes. A journalist has to have an excellent command of language and the written word. He or she has to be able to get his or her ideas across to the magazine, newspaper or website’s readership.

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The way you begin your letter is very important. You should have found out the name of the hiring editor or webmaster, as this will, to a limited extent, show that you have investigated the organisation and worked out to whom the letter should be addressed. Don’t just begin this type of cover letter with Dear Sir or Madam. This won’t impress the person reading it.

If you are writing to apply for a job covering events, news and features, don’t start it in the usual way, which is ‘I am writing to apply for the position of news journalist.’ This standard letter opening may be fine if the magazine or newspaper is a formal one, for example, a financial one, but it’s not a good one if you are applying for a news reporter’s job. You should imagine that you are writing your journalism cover letter with a story you have covered, or an interview with a celebrity, or even with a short review of a book or film that impressed you. That is certain to command the reader’s attention. That is exactly what you need to do; stand out from all the other applicants.

Keep you cover letter short and to the point. The person reading it will be busy. They probably won’t read one that is more than a page long.

Your CV is the place to put links to your LinkedIn profile and other social media sites, such as Twitter. It’s often not a good idea to add your Facebook account, unless you have edited it very carefully, removing any posts that you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to read.

However, an online presence is very important. If you don’t have a detailed LinkedIn profile, or if you are not signed up to the site, rectify this now. Also ensure that you have a Twitter account but be judicious about what you tweet. You don’t want to make the same mistakes as Donald Trump does, for example.

If you write for a website you should put relevant links to your published work in a separate file, so that a prospective employer can read examples of your writing. Make sure that you only give links to what you and others consider your best work.

If you have had work published in a newspaper, local or national, photocopies or scanned copies these should accompany your CV and journalism cover letter.

If you worked on a student magazine or newspaper, say so, the more experience you can prove you have had the better your chances of landing a job.

Because the cover letter should be short and to the point, send relevant files along with it and your CV.

Your academic qualification should be in your CV, so there’s no need to itemise them in your cover letter. Instead concentrate on your expertise as it relates to journalism. Mention the qualities that you have which would be useful to you as a journalist. For example, you could be a keen investigator, persuasive and an extremely good communicator with excellent grammar skills. If you write that you have the latter skills, you should have a tutor, educated friend or a journalist to read your cover letter and CV to ensure that there are no errors in them. You want to make the very best impression on the person reading them.

Before you send your covering letter tick the points on this checklist

  • Have you found the name of the editor who will read your documents?
  • Have you put your address at the top of the letter and written your name in full at the bottom?
  • Have you included relevant files?
  • Have you given your LinkedIn account and Twitter profiles?
  • Is your journalism cover letter as attention-grabbing as it needs to be?

Documents that could be added with your cover letter and CV

  • examples of your work
  • any recommendation or references you have from editors you have worked with, perhaps as an intern
  • scanned copies of your academic qualifications if you were asked for them
  • photocopies of your published articles

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