Journalism is a hirer's market these days, allowing the editors of high-profile magazines and websites to readily poach workers away from equally high-profile competitors. But it turns out that the buzziest media job now is at a 95,000-circulation daily newspaper in central Florida.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune's listing for a investigative reporter, first posted on March 14, didn't stir a lot of initial interest. But the help-wanted ad got a second wind Wednesday as bloggers circulated it around the web. Mother Jones, for one, dubbed it, "The best journalism job want ad ever ever," suggesting in a Tumblr post that "You should, like, strongly consider applying to work for this guy."
What's all the fuss? Well, here's a snippet of the job description: "Our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede."
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The hiring editor, Matthew Doig, then goes on to explain the job's requirements in greater detail:
If you're the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you're our kind of sicko.
Doig's listing may be the toast of the Internet--today, anyway--but will it yield real, live qualified candidates? To judge by an informal sample of other investigative reporter gigs now going begging, it sounds downright enthralling. Here, for instance, is how The Chicago Reporter describes an ideal investigative-reporter candidate: "Must be willing to learn how to use spreadsheets, database managers and mapping software." Or, for political types, here's an investigative post at Roll Call: "The job requires regular production of exclusive stories on money and politics, Congressional ethics, the personal finances of Members and the operations of Capitol Hill." And here's how the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is soliciting applications: "Candidates must have strong organizational skills as well as the ability to self-motivate and work both productively and independently in a congenial newsroom environment."
So how many interviews has Doig already lined up?
"I probably have 15-20 candidates so far," he told Poynter's Jim Romenesko. "This was my first job post. But I took a similar approach when I was looking for a job about 10 years ago. I wrote what you'd probably consider a 'non-traditional' cover letter figuring that anybody who didn't like it would also not like me (and vice-versa). The guy who hired me at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Chris Davis, told me he never even read the clips I sent. He just loved the cover letter. And he and I have gotten along about as well as any reporter and editor can, so my strategy must have worked."
If you think you can get along with Doig, you can apply here.