To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday
*During the winter, a few individuals applying to The Spectator for summer internships contacted me with questions about applying and the paper. I’ve decided to post my cover letter from 2010 for future reference and use by those interested in the example it may (or may not) provide.*17 April 2010
Dear Jim Poling,
Please accept my cover letter and curriculum vitae as my application for a summer internship with The Hamilton Spectator. I enthusiastically apply to The Spec as someone who has read the paper daily for over 20 years, delivered the newspaper as a young teenager, and is a proud member of the Greater Hamilton community. I will bring a unique combination of journalism experience and local knowledge to The Spectator.
I’ve worked as a professional journalist for three years at Canada’s top two national news publications, The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. During my time at these publications, I’ve established myself as a leading reporter in the post-secondary education field earning the respect of both those I cover and the readers I serve with critical in-depth coverage of issues and events.
I’m uniquely positioned in journalism as an experienced user of Internet tools to produce journalism packages that both stimulate and inform the public. I’ve been an early adopter of many Web 2.0 tools and am talented at spotting new online platforms. I worked within limited resources to build, along with founding editor Erin Millar, the Maclean’s higher education website starting in 2007 leveraging my knowledge of online readership communities to propel the website to become Canada’s number one higher education news website.
I have an extensive network of contacts and sources in the Hamilton community. As an active member of the community, I’ve sat on numerous community organizations and been involved in community panels on a wide range of topics. This network of contacts, especially in politics and education, enables me to “fill-in” for Spectator reporters during summer vacations producing the high quality informed local content the paper’s readership expects and are used to.
I used this network of sources to be the first to report the appointment of Patrick Deane as president of McMaster University and will be able to leverage my network to continue to be first with accurate local information.
My unique understanding of online communities, combined with my intimate knowledge of our local community makes me the best candidate to produce and disseminate multimedia content for The Spectator. I’ve learned from experience that great content is only one part of online media success; a journalist must possess technical knowledge in how to use social media technologies to connect their journalism to its target audience.
As a long-time consumer of The Spectator’s online products, starting with CompuSpec in 1991, I understand what readers are looking for online.
I’d like to integrate live video streaming, using a service such as Ustream.tv, into thespec.com. thespec.com reports that a news event, such as a police news conference, will be occurring during a given day but is unable to provide readers with live coverage of the event. Live coverage will result in readers visiting thespec.com more often and make thespec.com not just the source for the most in-depth coverage of local news, but also the place that provides a direct conduit to important events as they happen.
The Spectator should produce in-house video news updates three times a day at noon, 5pm, and 10pm. The noon and 5pm updates should focus on informing readers of local events that occurred during their working hours. The 10pm video should be a preview of the next day’s paper with a focus on print-exclusive columnists. The daytime videos should be under two minutes in length and encoding in an HTML5 video codec to enable readers to stream them on mobile devices without using much bandwidth. The evening video can be longer as most readers will be using home desktops.
Online community engagement is the key to online media success. I’m capable of training fellow journalists to engage readers using tools such as Twitter. The Spectator should be the centre of community discussion in Hamilton. I’d like to assist the paper is securing this position by organizing a “tweet-up” in which readers, community leaders, and Spectator journalists can interact. The “tweet-up” is a great venue to promote @thespec and thespec.com.
Hamilton Tiger-Cat games are another opportunity for mobile engagement. Using mobile-friendly tools such as Twitter, I envision the paper conducting an interactive half-time discussion for readers attending the game using the WiFi network at Ivor Wynne.
Hamilton’s stories are important to the paper’s readers and they are important to me as a Hamiltonian. I propose writing the following feature stories with both print and online components.
McMaster University has signed a contract with Dongguan University of Technology in China to open the first standalone Canadian university campus in the world’s most populous nation. Leveraging my intimate knowledge of McMaster and my extensive contacts with international higher education experts, I will explore the potential risks and benefits of this venture for McMaster and the Hamilton community. The opening of a China campus is the most ambitious undertaking by McMaster since its move in the depths of the Great Depression from Toronto to Hamilton. My coverage of this story will benefit greatly from my experiences covering the internationalization of higher education and first-hand experiences visiting the only other standalone overseas Canadian higher education campus, the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar.
Hamilton’s Roman Catholic bishop Anthony Tonnos will turn age 75 on August 1st. Under Canon Law, he is required to submit his resignation to the Pope on this day. Pending the acceptance of Rome, Hamilton’s largest religious denomination will have a new leader after Tonno’s 26 years as Bishop of Hamilton. I’d like to produce a feature telling the story of being Roman Catholic in Diocese of Hamilton from the viewpoints of 10 members of the local Catholic community, but not necessary “active Catholics”. I propose covering the entire diocese and including individuals from Waterloo, Guelph, and other regions covered by Metroland publications.
My undergraduate political studies major is focused on defence policy and my history major is focused on World War II Canadian military history. This non-journalism degree background enables me to provide informative in-depth coverage of the 68th anniversary of the Dieppe landing, the bloodiest day of WWII for Canada and a day of great tragedy for the Hamilton community. I’d like to produce an online multimedia feature about the local stories of Dieppe with a specific goal of mapping the locations of the homes of Dieppe casualties from Hamilton using Google Maps. There are many stories and artifacts from Dieppe in the Hamilton community and a well-produced multimedia feature of this content will be a rich resource for The Hamilton Spectator and our great community for many years to come.
The 2010 municipal election provides many story lines, even during the early stages of the summer. The change in voting day to an earlier date in October, election finance issues, the lack of a mayoral race at the present time, and campaigning in ward races offer many opportunities for in-depth coverage to build an extensive library of content for readers as they prepare to make their decision in the fall. Having run for municipal election in 2000, and having been the first candidate in Hamilton to have an election website, I bring first-hand knowledge of the dynamics of municipal campaigning to my coverage of political races.
Code Red is offering Hamilton’s a window into the demographics and poverty issues facing Hamilton. I’d like to continue this type of reporting by conducting video interviews of United Way agencies talking to their staff and clients to bring Hamilton’s stories online.
I hope to discuss further how my unique journalism experience, education, and knowledge of Hamilton can benefit The Hamilton Spectator during an interview for the position.