How to Write a Cover Letter for a Broadcast News Job

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Think of the cover letter for a broadcast news job the way that you might think of a press release or media advisory. Just as that PR person is trying to sell you a story idea, you are trying to sell yourself to a news director. This business is extremely competitive, so you want to demonstrate the strength of your writing skills and what sets you apart from the competition in a succinct and compelling way. The keys: content and style.

  • Sell yourself. Don't be modest. Create a list of the accomplishments that make you stand out from the huge crowd of applicants jockeying for that one position. If at all possible, get a second and third opinion regarding possible content from an industry veteran before you start writing.

  • Always address the cover letter to somebody. Never address the letter "To Whom it May Concern." The name on top should be the hiring manager, director or (most likely) news director. Call the station's main number (not the news number) to obtain the news director's name. That way, you are assured that your information is accurate and up-to-date, as there is a lot of movement with news directors in the industry.

  • Avoid bland and predictable introductions. Starting the cover letter with "I saw your advertisement for a reporter on Journalism Jobs" or "I am interested in your reporting job," won't get a second look. It will send your cover letter to the trash. Think of a more compelling introduction. The news director will be impressed by your out-of-the-box thinking and will remember you as a strong writer and creative thinker--all great attributes in the news industry.

  • Drop names. If you have a connection at the station who suggested you reach out to that news director, say so. Do so at the beginning of the letter, or early on. In this industry, landing a job often depends more on who you know than your talents or performance.

  • Show some personality. If your personality comes across in writing, it will likely come across on the air, too. Let your unique voice show through in your cover letter.

  • Make the opening line quick and catchy, but not corny. Don't employ gimmicks, either. News directors are for the most part quite no-nonsense, and don't have time for gimmicks or creative mailers like the ones PR people send. There is a difference between being creative and being corny.

  • Approach that creativity dilemma by providing a narrative in your introduction. For example, start off by showcasing a particularly challenging or high-profile story you worked on. Write a few lines about how you approached that story and the results it engendered. Maybe the story inspired a town to take action, or perhaps it garnered an Emmy nomination. Whatever the case may be, this approach will get you remembered by a news director.

  • Tailor the cover letter to exactly what the news director is looking for. Go through each facet of the job description and make sure you have each area covered. For example, if the key things the news director is looking for are 3 years of experience, a college degree, daily live-shot experience and great teamwork, make sure you address each factor.

  • Showcase how good a fit you are for that station. Demonstrate in some way that you know the station and the market. You need to be familiar with the station, its people and the audience you serve.

  • Keep the cover letter to one page. By the time you add your contact details, the station address and the closing/signature, the actual body of the letter should be no longer than half a page, single spaced. In other words, you've got a tall order ahead of you to showcase the aforementioned items in a brief way. But that's what broadcast news is all about--keeping words to a minimum but being very choosy about the words you do use.

  • Proof before you send. Have another person review your work and make sure it is free of typos and grammatical errors. Also ensure that the spacing, font style and size in the cover letter is the same as that of the resume.

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