TWo WWWII veterans were left in a funeral home for over 25 years.

Yesterday, they came “home.” On B4, teased on A1.


Long unclaimed, 2 veterans honored
BY ZACH C. COHEN zach.cohen@washpost.com
The Washington Post
April 17, 2014

TRIANGLE, Va. — No one who attended Wednesday’s funeral service at Quantico National Cemetery had ever met the two World War II-era veterans who were being laid to rest.

Their names, their ranks and their decorations had only recently been learned. No one could even say where the men were from.

What the attendees did know was that the men’s ashes had been found, unclaimed for more than 25 years, in a funeral home in Norfolk…read more…

Online: “Veterans, unclaimed for 25 years, laid to rest with honors at Quantico”

This was such a complex story to tell, it took a week to get it right. You couldn’t tell from the sleek copy thanks to some amazing help from my editors.

This story is a case study in what could happen in any neighborhood. Zoning matters, and these residents are learning that firsthand.


Residents in uphill fight against condo in neighborhood
BY ZACH C. COHEN
The Washington Post
April 17, 2014

…under the District’s zoning code, the property at 1511 A St. has few restrictions on what can be built there, beyond limiting the height to 50 feet. And the new owner, developer Taiwo Demuren, wants to “bring to the neighborhood condominiums that will not be pricing out those who want to live in Capitol Hill,” he said.

Residents opposed to Demuren’s plans say the development would not fit in with the neighborhood.

“We’ve had these 100-year-old homes here forever, and nobody ever thought this was zoned commercial,” said neighbor Brian Weeks…read more…

Online: “Under zoning code, few restrictions on what can be built on NE property”

While driving back from Quantico National Cemetery today (more on that later), I tuned into WAMU 88.5, the NPR affiliate in Washington. Kojo Nnamdi, one of my favorite radio hosts, was discussing one of my favorite things: Jewish food!

I called in and asked the panel about interfaith families juggling (and benefiting) both Easter and Passover.

(Coincidentally, it was my second time on NPR, the first one being this great interview with Paul Brown on the financial situation of campus newspapers.)

Costa Rican blogs still seem to be ruminating on my piece on being Jewish in Costa Rica. This one included some very nice compliments, so a hearty “gracias” and “toda raba” is in order to WelcomeToCostaRica.info.

Area ranks second in green-building count
— Zach C. Cohen
The Washington Post
April 10, 2014

The Washington area has the second-largest number of green buildings in the country for the fifth year in a row, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.

The region’s 435 Energy Star-certified buildings often use at least one-third less energy than comparable buildings. Increasingly popular energy efficiency tools include LED lights, real-time energy usage data, rooftop gardens, electricity remote control and automation, according to the EPA….read more…

Read the full story online at washingtonpost.com.

My first B1 story for The Washington Post. It continues onto B4 with a tease on A1.


In special Md. court, a teen takeover
BY ZACH C. COHEN
The Washington Post
Apr 7 2014

The 16-year-old said he didn’t think before stealing a shirt, pants, hat and jewelry box from a local Kohl’s. He had fallen in with new friends after moving from Virginia to Maryland, and he followed their lead. He put on the clothes and started to walk out of the store.

The youth didn’t know police were on to him until right before officers handcuffed him. He was charged with theft under $1,000.

“I wasn’t in the right state of mind,” he said. “It was a dumb thing to do.”

But in Charles County, Md., the teen and other young first-time offenders get a second chance. Their records are wiped clean, and potential fines and driver’s license points can be forgiven. Instead, a jury of teen peers picks a different kind of punishment: community service, letters of apology, even having offenders plan their own funerals.read more…

You can also find the story online at washingtonpost.com. 

The National Zoo has begun to fill staff vacancies that contributed to the deaths of three animals and a zebra attack on a zookeeper last winter, zoo officials told a congressional oversight committee.

Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson said the zoo has hired seven animal caretakers and has plans to hire an additional 10 people for various other jobs. The zoo’s staff had been “spread too thin,” Baker-Masson said.

“Some of the problems that arose reflected some staffing imbalances that, while temporary, did put stress on the system,” National Zoo Director Dennis Kelly and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Director Steven Monfort said Wednesday in a statement to the Committee on House Administration.

Read the rest of the story at washingtonpost.com.

Yesterday was a whirlwind. After waking up at 5:30 a.m., I spent 18 hours total in Wards 7 and 8 (east of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C.) and in the downtown Washington Post office reporting on the mayoral Democratic primary.

My reporting contributed to The Washington Post’s extensive coverage of the Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s victory over incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray.

Below are links to articles and tweets that contain my writing, reporting or photos from April 1. I’ve pulled out and quoted (what I think is) the most interesting stuff, and you can find more at washingtonpost.com or at my Twitter account:

“How D.C. votes: Paper or Scantron?”

“Huge variation in turnout across city”

THEARC has special meaning to the mayor, since it’s part of what he sees as successful development in Ward 8. ”It’s a phenomenal addition to this area of Southeast,” Gray said Tuesday when he swung by the recreation and arts center shortly before noon. While “the turnout has not been great,” he said, those who showed up were “energized.”

“Shallal’s key challenge: ‘Who are you?’”

Andy Shallal stands out in a crowd. In the parking lot of Benning Public Library in Ward 7, the restaurateur and mayoral candidate towers over volunteers for Mayor Vincent C. Gray and D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser.

Shallal walks laps between the polling place doors to pick up handicapped access signage and the bed of his campaign’s pickup truck to grab a slice of pizza. In between, he greets voters with a handshake (and once, a long, quiet embrace of a somber voter.)

“It’s not a heavy turnout,” Shallal said in an interview. “Everybody’s precious.”

City polling sites show apparently low voter turnout

Many preferred to sit out.

Hezekiah Smalls, 23, volunteered for 15 hours of Election Day but spent none of that time voting. “I don’t think it was important enough,” Smalls said.

Though he considers his time at the Benning Public Library running the ballot boxes a “service to the community,” he said he prefers to vote only in presidential elections, where, he said, the outcomes have a bigger impact.

“Voter turnout: ‘Where is everybody?’”

“Poll workers: Lowest turnout in memory”

“Bowser, Gray supporters explain choices”

Down the hill from the Covenant Baptist Church in Congress Heights, Lafayette Barnes and Clifford Waddy stand by campaign signs and flyer and joke about age and giving their information to a reporter.

But Barnes is manning the table for Mayor Vince Gray, and Waddy sports a green cap emblazoned with the name of council member Muriel Bowser, Gray’s closest competitor for the mayoral election.

Turnout light so far in one precinct

Diane Boyd, 62, voted for Gray after seeing improvements of the community in terms of education, crime and the economy.

“Across the river, on the other side, they get a lot of what they need…east of the river, we’re denied a lot. It’s not the same,” said Boyd, a contact representative for the D.C. Board.

Some of this reporting makes an appearance in the print edition depending on the edition. Given the late results release by the D.C. Board of Elections, The Washington Post’s print edition carried the mayoral race on A1 in every edition Tuesday night, but in different ways depending on the news available at the time.

I’m thrilled to announce that two journalism projects I worked on in the past year have been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists!

The story Heather Mongilio and I wrote after the disappearance of The Eagle‘s last print edition (that featured a cover story on an investigation of TKE hazing) is a finalist for a Mark of Excellence Award for breaking news coverage.

Additionally, “Half the Battle,” a journalism project on millennial veterans by American University School of Communication with cooperation from WAMU, is also a Mark of Excellence Award finalist for online feature reporting!

I’m so thankful to work with such great journalists. We’ll know at the end of the month how each placed in the region and if they’ll be sent on to the national competition.

In the meantime, I’m buying my ticket to the regional conference in D.C. post haste.

I try not to ask much from you, but this is a time where I feel I must.

I got my start in journalism at The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper since 1925. I took every assignment I could get my hands on and eventually from there became a Student Government beat reporter. They liked me enough to give me a section editing position and finally editor-in-chief. The Eagle taught me everything I needed to know in order to be a journalist in Washington, D.C.

Journalism can be a force for good at American University, and The Eagle has worked to that promise. In my four years there, the journalists at The Eagle have uncovered: the history of WWI-era chemical munitions buried in the grounds of AU’s land, the then-unannounced-but-already-decided smoking and tobacco ban, an investigation of fraternity hazing, lobbying efforts by the university on Capitol Hill, how local laws affect students, lawsuits and so, so much more.

At the same time, the staff dutifully dropped papers and homework to cover breaking news, which has included everything from gunmen to rallies. The Eagle has been on the forefront of sports and A&E coverage on campus and gives young journalists the opportunity to cover the events in Washington alongside professional journalists.

It has won more awards from the Society of Professional Journalists than I can remember, and Eagle staffers every year win scholarships through outside journalism organizations. They serve in internships at national and local news organizations and graduate to become major newsmakers and storytellers. Alumni of The Eagle currently work at The Washington Post, USA Today,  NBC, Turner, the White House and more.

The Eagle has tirelessly worked for the American University community. Now it needs your help.

The Eagle’s financial stability, like that of countless other newspapers across the country, is in question. Declining advertising revenue forced The Eagle to lose its weekly print edition last year. The staff has adopted a digital-first approach and is making money with a redesigned website in cooperation with the Student Media Board. The burdens this placed on the staff should have been greater and was only lessened by their untiring dedication to journalism on campus and the generous support of alumni.

But there’s work to be done. To ensure The Eagle has the funds every year to innovate and provide the journalism AU needs, and the training its staff needs to compete in the global workforce, it needs more than just advertising revenue and allocations from AU.

Enter The Eagle Innovation Fund. If we raise $10,000 by April 25, the university will set up a permanent endowment, the interest from which will fund The Eagle in the years to come, allowing its journalists to focus on the business of journalism rather than on the business of making money. 

If you care about journalism on campus and across the country, here is one place where your donation, as big or as small as it needs to be, will make a difference. Help The Eagle do what it has proven it can do: Shine a light on AU and train journalists to report on the world. 

If you’ve ever read, commented on or shared a story from The Eagle…or picked up print edition…

If you know somebody who works in journalism and know how hard they work…

If you know somebody who lost their job in journalism despite all the work they did..

If you’ve ever covered breaking news…

If you’ve ever spent a night on deadline…

You know what it takes to make journalism happen. Help us continue to do it. Donate today.

I wish I could have written about Bill Irwin on a happier occasion. I read his book years ago and still treasure my copy signed both by Irwin and his guide dog, Orient.

Irwin passed away earlier this month of prostate cancer. At the age of 50, he was the first blind man to traverse the entire 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. His story as a recovering alcoholic looking for faith in God was an inspiration to many across the country.


First blind man to hike 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail
BY ZACH C. COHEN zach.cohen@washpost.com
The Washington Post Sunday
Mar 16 2014

As he walked the length of the Appalachian Trail for eight months in 1990, Bill Irwin estimated that he fell thousands of times. He cracked his ribs and suffered from hypothermia as he climbed mountains and forded rivers. The pads he wore didn’t…read more…

Online: Bill Irwin dies at 73; first blind hiker of Appalachian Trail

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