The best rejection letters I ever got

I hope this post will give hope to the exhausted college grads out there who haven’t gotten hired yet. (Tip: Be patient. Good things await.)

Wednesday night Derek Willis tweeted “best internship rejection letter I ever got.” And it linked to this letter from the News & Observer’s Judy Bolch, who is listed as “editor/staff” in her signoff. Those of us who know Judy think she’s better described as columnist/wordsmith/friend.

But this isn’t about Judy, it’s about the letter she wrote Derek. It starts: “You’re just the kind of intern I’d love to have: bright, talented and eager. Some day, I’ll probably be reading a list of award winners and there you’ll be.” I forgot to describe another side of Judy: she was clearly a good judge of talent. Willis went on to work at the Washington Post, the New York Times, and now, ProPublica.

Which made me think: How did the News & Observer reject me when I applied there years earlier? I pulled out my file of rejection letters — yes, like every lifelong journalist I’m a masochist. There are 17 of them from the period of my life when I was working my way up (or down) in the business.

Here’s one from the N&O in 1978.                                                                                  FullSizeRender (12)Those who knew Bob Brooks would recognize that concise writing and succinct tone immediately. A year later, I applied again, and this time, I heard from Hunter George.


That was nice. Not as nice as Judy’s to Derek, but I suspect there is justification for that. No doubt Derek was better than I was.

Here’s one I got from the Charlotte Observer a few years earlier, notable only because the editor’s assistant misspelled my name, and the editor, whose name I’ve deleted, didn’t catch it.

FullSizeRender (10)And others are typical — all nice, all rejections.



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Bear in mind, I wasn’t applying for an internship. I was at the Asheville Citizen, in my second reporting job at the time.

Seventeen rejection letters, and that doesn’t count the number of resumes I sent around the country that were never answered. (Not answering job queries seems to be the common response from media companies these days, which strikes me as highly disrespectful of the people who want to work for them.)

Of course, there is a happy ending. Later in 1979, the N&O hired me as a reporter.

So keep at it.

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