Rob_Saget: I'm about to graduate college with a double major in broadcast and journalism. Probably a stupid question, but since I don't have any actual job experience in the field, what can I do to make my resume and cover letter more appealing to media outlets like TV stations or newspapers?
Swansburg: I love a good cover letter and am always amazed at how many bad ones I see. I think there are a few really important things to do. Be concise; don't assume anyone is going to indulge your letter for very long. Use the right tone; I'm always charmed by cover letters written in the voice of someone who seems to get Slate. We're not a very buttoned-up magazine, as I think you can tell from reading it, and I like a letter that's not too formal. That said, don't assume your reader is an old buddy—too familiar isn't good either.
Most important, perhaps, is conveying that you know the place you're applying to. I like it when someone gets across that they read Slate, they like Slate, they really could imagine contributing to Slate. I suppose some part of that is falling prey to flattery, but I want to know you've done your homework and thought about the job and the employer. You'd be amazed how many letters we get from people who don't seem to have read the magazine. And we're a free Web magazine! It's not like you're applying to Notes & Queries ... ! On the resume, one thing: Lose the GPA. I don't care.