Melanie Coulson’s open cover letter for the Sun News Network job

By Melanie Coulson

By Melanie Coulson

To whom it may concern:

Wow! Your ad looking for new members for your Sun News Team really caught my attention.  Especially this part:

No need to have a journalism degree (in fact, we’ll view it with a healthy dose of skepticism). Journalism 101 isn’t where you learn to find the truth.

Coming up with the right stories for Ezra, Adler and Brian isn’t rocket science…but you can bet your average CBC producer wouldn’t be able to deliver that magic.

This is the kind of clever writing team I’d like to be a part of – a dig at journalism schools and the CBC in the same breath – fantastic!

Now it is true that I have taught a course at Carleton University – a fundamentals of reporting course in fact. I taught students about background research, interview skills, balancing a story, proper focus, editing and ethical issues … but these won’t interest you, so I won’t bore you. You want the “Truth!”

And it is true that I have a master’s degree – not from Columbia University – but from Carleton, but again, that won’t interest you. My Master’s Research Project was a 30-minute radio documentary that looked at women journalists working on Parliament Hill from 1966 – 1996. (Yes, women journos, on the Hill – Imagine! And they wore sleeves, and shirts that weren’t too tight!)

But that won’t interest you in your search for your next parliamentary correspondent.

You’re looking for the ‘right people’ and by golly I am one of them!

I have the radio, television and online skills  (I even worked at that blasted CBC) you’re looking for in this ad … but again, I learned them first at journalism school so I guess they don’t count.

It’s true that some of the greatest journalists have never been to j-school, but just as many have. The lessons students learn there go beyond ‘Journalism 101.’ Yes, I learned how interview subjects (listen as well as ask questions); how to edit radio and television clips; and I worked on the school’s first blog that covered the Hill. I learned the tools of the trade.

But I also learned to think about news, and its important role in our society. I learned about balance, and how to be fair – tough, but fair – with the people I report about. I learned perspective.

The best reporters, editors and producers have strong news judgement and drive. These are probably things they are born with, I agree. At journalism schools, these innate talents are sharpened to make them among the very best at giving their audience the balanced stories they deserve. (And having a journalism degree doesn’t mean these talents disappear!)

I look forward to hearing from you, and it would be so great to talk about my skills (though we won’t talk about where I learned them) more and how I am one of the “black sheep who has a genuine passion for the real news” you’re looking for.




Melanie Coulson is a senior online editor for The Ottawa Citizen and a journalism instructor at Carleton University. She has been working in online news since graduating from Carleton's journalism program herself in 1999. This post was originally published on her blog, and was republished here with permission.