Here's How You Can Build an Impressive Journalism Clip Portfolio

Whether on Paper or Online, Pick Clips That Show You at Your Best

BJI/Blue Jean Images/Getty Images

If you're a journalism student you've probably already had a professor lecture you about the importance of creating a great clip portfolio in order to land a job in the news business. Here's what you need to know in order to do this. 

What Are Clips?

Clips are copies of your published articles. Most reporters save copies of every story they've ever published, from high school onward.

Why Do I Need Clips?

To get a job in print or web journalism.

Clips are often the deciding factor in whether a person is hired or not.

What Is a Clip Portfolio?

A collection of your best clips. You include them with your job application.

Paper vs. Electronic

Paper clips are simply photocopies of your stories as they appeared in print (see more below).

But increasingly, editors may want to see online clip portfolios, which include a links to your articles. Many reporters now have their own websites or blogs where they include links to all their articles (see more below.)

How Do I Decide Which Clips to Include In My Application?

Obviously, include your strongest clips, the ones that are best-written and most thoroughly reported. Pick articles that have great ledes - editors love great ledes. Include the biggest stories you've covered, the ones that made the front page. Work in a little variety to show you're versatile and have covered both hard news stories and features.

And obviously include clips that are relevant to the job you're seeking. If you're applying for a sports writing job, include lots of sports stories.

How Many Clips Should I Include In My Application?

Opinions vary, but most editors say include no more than six clips in your application. If you throw in too many they simply won't get read.

Remember, you want to draw attention to your best work. If you send too many clips your best ones might get lost in the shuffle.

How Should I Present My Clip Portfolio?

Paper: For traditional paper clips, editors generally prefer photocopies over original tearsheets. But make sure the photocopies are neat and legible. (Newspaper pages tend to photocopy on the dark side, so you may need to adjust the controls on your copier to make sure your copies are bright enough.) Once you've assembled the clips you want, put them together in a manila envelope along with your cover letter and resume.

PDF files: Many newspapers, especially college papers, produce PDF versions of each issue. PDFs are a great way to save your clips. You store them on your computer and they never turn yellow or get torn. And they can be easily e-mailed as attachments.

Online: Check with the editor who is going to be looking at your application. Some may accept e-mail attachments containing PDFs or screenshots of online stories, or want the link to the webpage where the story appeared. As noted earlier, more and more reporters are creating online portfolios of their work.

One Editor's Thoughts About Online Clips

Rob Golub, local editor of the Journal Times in Racine, Wisconsin, says he often asks job applicants to simply send him a list of links to their online articles.

The worst thing a job applicant can send? Jpeg files. "They're hard to read," says Golub.

But Golub says finding the right person is more important than the details of how someone applies. "The main thing I'm looking for is an amazing reporter who wants to come and do the right thing for us," he says. "The truth is, I'll push through inconvenience to find that great human being."

Most important: Check with the paper or website where you're applying, see how they want things done, and then do it that way.