Cover Letter Examples

Below are two sample cover letters. Each letter helped a Chico State student land a job or internship at top newspapers in the United States.

The editor who hired the student who wrote the first letter said this was the best cover letter she had ever received. As you read the letter, imagine the editor and what she thought.

This letter followed an initial telephone conversation. The editor sent the student an editing test as a follow-up.

Note how the student starts with a clever way of showing that she knows the type of things a copy editor needs to know. She transitions into a descriptive way of showing that she is a well-rounded person who knows a little about a lot of things. This approach also tells the editor what the student will bring to the copy desk if hired. Further, the student shows she has done her homework by researching the newspaper. Too many cover letters are generic, and they tend to find their ways to the generic waste basket.

Finally the student points out a few things from her resume to make sure they are put into context. The ending is probably the most intriguing part of the letter: It shows that the student is a wordsmith who enjoys reading about words. What better way to say, "I'm a copy editor you should hire"?

Letter No. 1

Name Withheld
Assistant Managing Editor/Copy Desks

St. Petersburg Times 490 First Ave. S.

St. Petersburg, FL 33071

Dear Ms. Withheld,

Sure, I know that the main drag in my town of 47,000 is The Esplanade, and not the Esplanade. The gazebo and tree-lined paths that span one downtown city block are Plaza Park and not simply ''the downtown park.'' Portions of Bidwell Park, a 3,600-acre city treasure, are appropriately called Upper Park and Lower Park, and not upper or lower Bidwell Park. But there are other things about Chico, Calif., I'm more proud I know.

Books in my bedroom chronicle the rise and demise of the city's small black population between the Civil War and the Great Depression, and the long-distance romance captured in dozens of letters between Chico's 19th century founder and his future wife. Sense of place--I've worked to achieve it during my 12 years here. And a storehouse of knowledge about my environment, about what makes Chico different from Sacramento, Calif., or from St. Petersburg, Fla., serves me well as a copy editor.

I've begun to study St. Petersburg: its beaches that attract tourists to buoy the state's sales tax revenue, the manatees that prompt boating regulations. I learned the St. Petersburg Times is one of the few large dailies still protected from Wall Street through private ownership. I've set my sights on a newspaper I'd be proud to work for.

My resume illustrates that my love for local trivia is matched by my addiction to journalism. It doesn't mention, however, that I edited my high school newspaper, tried out radio and television news as a teen-ager, and landed my first job at a daily newspaper at 18.

I own too many reference books, and idolize Barbara Wallraff--''Ms. Grammar'' of The Atlantic Monthly--and Bryan A. Garner, editor of ''A Dictionary of Modern American Usage.'' I've still got plenty to learn, but I hope you'll consider letting me learn it under fire, on the copy desk of the St. Petersburg Times. If there's one thing I can do, it's learn, and quickly. I enjoyed the challenge of your copy-editing test, and I look forward to discussing my work with you.

Sincerely,

Student name withheld

Letter No. 2

October 3, 2006

The Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20071

Dear Selection Committee:

The Modesto Bee’s biggest story of the summer came in with major attribution problems, and it was my duty to fix them. I had been an intern on the copy desk for a little more than a month when a police report came in about a possible murder-suicide that occurred in the twilight hours of the Fourth of July. The next day, a reporter turned in an analysis with sentences such as “… he could only guess as to why Trevor Branscum, after an argument with his wife, would return to his home to kill his four young children before taking his own life.”

After conferring with my boss, I thoroughly added attribution, even at the expense of the story’s flow. To some, this approach may seem overly guarded, but remember that at one point, John Mark Karr looked just as guilty of killing JonBenet Ramsey as Branscum later proved to be of killing his children and himself.

Thanks to its editors, The Washington Post continuously succeeds at the high-stakes game that is covering the nation’s capital. These editors make sure emotional stories, like those of Karr and Branscum, stick to the facts. They know the difference between “hordes” and “hoards.” They make changes objectively and don’t introduce errors.

I don’t have an Ivy League school on my resume, but I continue to earn high positions at young ages. In my first semester of college, I was the only freshman working on the campus newspaper. The next year, I was the only sophomore at California State University, Chico, to get an internship at a daily paper. I’m the youngest intern that my boss has had in her 16 years at The Bee and only the second one she has considered hiring fresh out of college.

When I read a Post article, I see the subtle fingerprints of the copy desk. A recent article referred to “former president Bill Clinton.” Most professional copy editors would capitalize the “p” without a second thought, but the Post copy desk realizes “former president” is a false title.

The Washington Post unseated a president. Its columnists are respected nationwide. Its headlines are the “instant history” that Bill Walsh talks about on his Web site. While most newspapers embrace fluffy headlines more and more, The Post continues to write straightforward ones that can be understood decades later. On the day that The Modesto Bee ran the headline “New threat in skies,” The Post went with “Plot to Bomb U.S.-Bound Jets Is Foiled: Britain Arrests 24 Suspected Conspirators.” The Post does things the right way, and I’m smart, passionate and resourceful enough to be part of the team.

Sincerely,

Student name withheld