Friday, August 12, 2011

An honest newspaper job posting

In the year I spent as a freelance reporter looking for full-time work, I learned to translate the optimism of newspaper job postings into the likely truth on the ground at the paper. Then I threw in some hyperbole for fun.

To readers who aren't journalists: This post might not be for you. To my fellow reporters: I feel your pain. To newspaper companies: I kid because you're driving me insane.


Are you looking for a journalism job you're massively over qualified for? One that will force your kids to eat government cheese? If so, we've got the gig for you, because we have no intention of paying what this job's worth. Our corporate executives need that cash for themselves on the off chance shareholders realize we don't have a plan for "The Internet."

We're an award winning daily in (INSERT CITY), though if you visit us you might not see any actual awards dated later than 2007. We can't really afford to frame them anymore, or to send someone to the ceremony and pick them up. But we're a great place to work, particularly if you like covering 2-3 beats at once, staring at empty desks, multi-week furloughs announced at the last possible second and various other soul-crushing moral killers that pop up every two-to-three weeks.

We need a bulldog reporter - someone who's familiar with open records law, investigative techniques and computer assisted reporting. Someone who doesn't just go to meetings and wait for press releases, but really develops sources, breaks stories and balances daily coverage with longer-term reporting.

Now you might think, "that sounds like what any good reporter should be able to do." Far from it, my friend. Roughly translated to the hire we'll actually make it means, "we want someone who thinks he/she is too good for this job and who'll end up just sitting on his or her ass all day, selling their worthless crap on eBay and talking about how they've never been given time to do that five-part series on sack-lunch theft at City Hall."

Or a minority. Then we'll have diversity in our newsroom for the 3 months it takes a larger paper to hire that reporter away, leading us to freeze the job and spread the work among the four reporters we have left.

We'd like someone with 4-6 years experience. Any more and we'd have to pay too much. At least two years of that experience should be at The Wall Street Journal or, in a pinch, The New York Times.

Please send a cover letter, resume, references and 5 clips to (INSERT EMAIL ADDRESS). Better yet, use our automated system, which will ask you to input the exact same information two or three times, repeatedly reject your clip packet as too large or improperly formatted, then time out and force you to start over.

We can't be bothered to let you know we've received your application, and please don't call to check. We're also not going to give you anyone's name, so you may feel like an jackass writing this letter to no one, or combing around on our poorly designed web site in a vain attempt to match an email address with an actual human being.

You shouldn't worry about that too much, though. Chances are good corporate will force us to eliminate this job by the time you apply.

When applying, mention you saw this opening listed at

Aug. 24 update: Nothing here should reflect on my new employers at the Winston-Salem Journal. There are still people in this wonderful, frustrating, dying industry who do things the right way.

1 comment:

Lucid Idiocy said...

Consider below and optional trim on this post. I exercised the option.

We'll probably get hundreds of applications, mostly from people who don't really want the job, but who like to send form cover letters and application packets for every position they see on because it's something to do between eBay auctions.

If we do call you for an interview, be ready to answer questions you've already answered in both the cover letter and resume. You'll also need to give specific examples of stories you've broken and investigative pieces you've written, even if you sent us several examples of each as clips, because we don't actually look at any of that stuff.

This job posting does not constitute a contract for employment. You'd have to be a moron to think it does, but our lawyers made us put this in.