The following is a (slightly modified) copy of a cover letter I sent out with a job application. This is the type of self-promotional pitch that I've always wanted to make. Unfortunately, it resulted in absolute bupkis. Still, I'm glad I gave it a shot, and it's probably one of the most honest things I've ever put on paper, which isn't saying much
In any case, if you're young and considering a life as a journalist and/or writer, here's a sample of what that career choice can do to you.
So you’re already reading this and judging me, and that really sucks for me. Maybe it sucks for you, too. After all, you have to sift through piles and piles of applications and make judgments based on little more than a few scraps of paper—except that no one reads things on paper anymore, or so I’m told.
To be completely honest though, I’m tired of trying gimmicks to get to the top of that pile. Even this gimmick feels lame, like I’m in a bar trying to get laid and the only trick I have left is to stand in the middle of the room with a sign that reads, “Fuckable.”
Because the last thing I want to be judged on is my ability to talk about myself. Clearly, as you have already realized, my self-promotional skills amount to precisely crap.
But the one thing that I’m pretty good at is being a journalist. After a virtual lifetime spent wondering what I was meant to do in this world, I found journalism. And I loved it, everything about it, and I still do. I love the feeling of doing something important, and that jolt you get while chasing a story that might turn out to be nothing, but damnit, what if it really is something? I love the stress and the deadlines and the garbage hours with even worse pay. I even love the nightmares in which I’m feverishly trying to finish a big story, only to wake up and realize that I have to sit down in the real world and rewrite it all over again.
If I were to make an actual case for myself, here’s some of what I’d tell you (this is actually ripped verbatim from what I’ve dubbed my “serious cover letter”):
For more than six years I have worked as a writer and journalist. And in one of my most recent roles as the news editor of New Times, an alternative weekly paper in San Luis Obispo, CA, with a readership of 100,000, I was fortunate enough to receive several awards and accolades from trade organizations such as the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, California Newspaper Publishers Association, and the National Newspaper Association.
My piece on California mental hospitals was awarded first place in the National Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest for investigative reporting. One of the judges commented that “Colin Rigley takes a look at state hospitals and the mental health system in a concise yet broad and in-depth manner that takes readers deep.”
And I was a three-time finalist in the California Newspaper Publishers Association 2011 Better Newspapers Contest in the categories of Investigative Reporting (for the articles “Scar Tissue,” and “A History of Violence”) and Business, Financial, or Economic Reporting (for the article “Caught in the Middle”).
My story on Atascadero State Hospital, “A History of Violence,” helped inspire California State Sen. Sam Blakeslee to draft legislation aimed at improving conditions for hospital staff. More recently, my coverage of the Morro Bay Aquarium has led to citizen protests, online petitions, and an investigation by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Ew, right? I mean, who talks like that? Normally, I don’t even do a good job of accepting compliments, let alone verbally masturbating for a few hundred words in a cover letter.
What I’m really going for here is to maybe make enough of an impression on you that you’ll read some of my work. Maybe you won’t like it, hopefully you’ll love it, but in all likelihood your final evaluation will lie somewhere in the middle. And that’s OK by me, because at the end of the day, I can look back at some of these stories with pride.So there it is. That’s my case for myself. If you’ve read this far, thank you, and I’m sorry.