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Want to interview for the job? Send us 8 story ideas first!

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by anotherbucket4monsieur, Dec 24, 2011.

  1. I applied for a political reporter gig at a free weekly publication in the Midwest and the editor send me an email asking for 8 story ideas! (6 blog posts and 2 cover stories.) It appears to be a legit publication but is this just a free way for them to generate story ideas? I haven't even made it to the interview stage.
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    They like to see how you think, how well you know the topic, their area, etc. I use it a lot. Not as many as eight. I had one applicant suggest several stories we'd done recently, which told me they hadn't been paying attention.
  3. Sure, I get the point. But eight? And here is my question. If you don't get the job, but they like some of your story ideas, will they assign them to reporters on staff?
  4. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Eight is a lot, no doubt. I ask for 3-4. And I have never done that. Though I'm not sure I see the harm. If the ideas are really good, chances are you'll get the job and be the one doing the stories.
  5. J-School Blue

    J-School Blue Member

    I guess if they want 6 blog posts and 2 stories, 8 isn't that egregious. Since I assume the blog examples they want are more like story-ettes, perhaps quick localization of national issues. It does seem like a weirdly large number, but the question itself is a way to see what the applicant will actual pursue as far as reporting.
  6. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    Let's say a publication calls in three people for an interview, asks for "story ideas" or a "critique." Only one can get the job, of course.

    But now they have your ideas. You have, in effect, done free work for them.

    When this is done asking for a couple of ideas, I can't say I'm a huge fan, though I get the logic that is sold around it. What can you bring to the publication, and all that.

    When they ask for eight story "ideas," it's bush league.
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not a fan of this in an early stage of the hiring process. I think your clips should be allowed to speak for themselves, and then if later in the process an editor wants ideas, that's more fair. But asking for so many ideas specific to that publication/market seems shaky to me. I'd rather show what I've done on a previous beat and say something like "I'd like to discuss some ideas I could bring to your coverage" as a way of saying "interview me, dude."

    Then again, editors can call just about any shots they want these days while hiring. Do what you think you need to do to stay in the running.
  8. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I've never had a problem with this. They can hire someone else, use my ideas, I don't care. It's not like they are taking a kidney. I run out of ideas today, I get more ideas tomorrow. I've gone as far as to peruse the paper's archives to make sure they haven't already done the story, then tailor the idea to their locale by using specific local people/businesses in the story. I want to demonstrate I am not a passive, generic applicant from out of town. But I accept that this is a competitive business and I am not usually going to be the only talented journalist applying. If I lose, I don't expect them to treat the ideas as if they heard them in the confessional booth. For all I know, they already had that idea on the back burner.
  9. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    To clarify, I don't ask this of everybody - playthrough has a valid point. You get to nitty-gritty, come with some ideas (but not 8)
  10. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I used my cover letter to detail two story ideas in an application a couple years ago. I think the editors were clearly impressed by that. I was one of two finalists who got flown in for an interview, and all four people I met with mentioned the ideas glowingly.

    The job went to a guy whose resume was clearly a solid step above mine, but I've spoken with that sports editor since and feel they would strongly consider me if another spot I was interested came open. I definitely think the ideas (which I, like Frank, submitted after I had checked in the archives to see if they had used) really made a great impression. For one, they did a similar story to one of those ideas about a month later.

    No idea is original, and local newspapers in different areas aren't competitors. Sharing ideas, then, is a positive thing. It's like the special section swap Toby organizes. If the editors "steal" your idea, that says something positive about you. You obviously made at least some impression.
  11. I used to be of the school of thought that requesting this was a shop's way to test your creativity and not steal your ideas.

    Then I applied for a social media gig where I was asked to do this, and about a month after I put together a five-page proposal for an overhaul of the online operation, saw every single one of my ideas put into use down to a change to the company style book I suggested.
  12. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I think without knowing the specific characters involved, I could see either the benign scenario or MonsterLobster's prompt being correct. OP said the outlet seems respectable from the outside, so if that is your gut, go with it and submit the story ideas. Maybe they use them, maybe they don't, but if you want the job, you probably don't have a chance if you give them nothing.
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