How to write a cover letter for a journalism job or internship

My Name

My letterhead doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to exist!

Dear Specific Person Whose Name I Obtained, Showing I Have Reporting Skills,*

I am starting this cover letter with literally ANYTHING other than “I am applying for [job].” Also I’m not telling you how I found the job listing, unless someone influential told me to apply. Yes, I am defying the advice of my career center, professor and/or friend who is applying to law/automotive/sales jobs. And my name’s in the letterhead so I don’t need to mention it again.

Instead, I will use my first 100 words or less to tell you something interesting — yet relevant to the job — that will make you want to talk to me. Because that’s what this is all about: Scoring an interview so I can dazzle you! Maybe that thing will not be how I reported on a Sad Person and learned a Valuable Lesson About Journalism, though, because everyone is doing that and also this isn’t a college admissions essay.

Now, instead of listing ALL my awesome experiences and achievements, since they are already on my resume, I will look at the job requirements and curate accordingly. I will make clear how my experiences/achievements prepare me for this particular job, which I researched extensively to see what, exactly, it is! Because I’m definitely not applying for all 20 openings at your organization. Or maybe I am (Wait, you can see that in your recruitment software?!), but THIS is the job I REALLY want. And it’s not because I’m PERFECT for the position (pobody’s nerfect! haha) or a great fit (because what am I, jeans?).

Next I’ll tell you what I can do for your organization besides work hard and utilize my strong track record in communication skills and high proficiency with Microsoft Word! I will skip the part about how this will advance my goals, which are to grow in my career, master new skills and have health insurance. Rather, I’ll tell you how I will advance your goals.

I will not make this paragraph about how I love [station/show/podcast] because I grew up listening to it in the backseat of my parents’ car, nor will I remind you that your organization is an esteemed news outlet with high standards that serves the public. I will give examples of work you do that I liked (and why), preferably at least two. Oh yeah, and I def won’t tell you how much I love a podcast your competitor produces. (That would be silly, I say as I delete a reference to The Daily.) Nor will I confuse Idaho Matters and Talk of Iowa. Thank goodness I always ask someone to proofread my letters and they caught that embarrassing mistake!

After reviewing your job description, it’s clear that you’re looking for a candidate that is extremely familiar with the responsibilities associated with this role, and can perform them confidently. Given these requirements, I am certain that I have the necessary skills to successfully do the job adeptly and perform above expectations. What? I’d never cut and paste a paragraph I found in a random template! You must have me confused with 40% of your applicant pool.

Finally, I will not use words more suited for accepting a marriage proposal to express my excitement about this job! Yes I would love it, be honored to have it and be passionate about every aspect of it! But I will use normal words. And, because I am not a free online career personality test, my ability to craft phrases like “successfully utilize my core competencies and soft skills in the workspace” will remain implied. In conclusion, I bet you’re aware I’m available for an interview at your convenience. Thank you for your consideration.




My Name

P.S. I saved this as a PDF so it will open in your browser, instead of a .docx file that will download and pollute your already-overflowing desktop. You’re welcome! Did you know I’m proficient in Microsoft Word?


How to make all-purpose letterhead

  1. Choose a sans-serif font with a heavy bold face. Proxima Nova is safe enough.
  2. Type your name. Make it between 25 and 30 points.
  3. Now choose a thinner version of your font.
  4. Type your email address, phone number and website URL. Separate them with this character: |
  5. Optionally, include your street address (but why?) and non-embarrassing social accounts.
  6. Make this stuff between 10 and 12 points.
  7. Feeling dangerous? Add a horizontal line!

How to add your signature

There are several phone apps that will “scan” a document:

Notes instructions (iOS)
Dropbox instructions (iOS, Android)
Any free scanning app in either app store

You don’t need photo editing software to crop your “scan.” Do this:

  1. Get the PDF or image created by the app onto your computer.
  2. Open the file in anything that opens files.
  3. Take a screenshot of just your signature. On a Mac, use Command-Shift-4 to do this. On a PC, use the Snipping Tool.
  4. Drag the screenshot into your document.

*Or team name (updated 1/18/2022).

Holly J. Morris is the NPR Training team's Digital Journalism Trainer.