I went to the White House Thursday to report on the White House’s Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Check out my web brief.

Online: “First lady says kids pay a price for the Washington life

Look out for more information soon.

I got to go the Smithsonian’s National Zoo today for work. Here’s an update on Monday’s shooting across the street with eyewitness accounts of that “crazy” day.

But more importantly, I saw no fewer than three pandas.

My latest for The Washington Post, today on B1 and continued on B4 with a tease on A1.

Thanks to Peter Hermann for leading my and Harrison Misiko’s reporting, and to editor Chris Jenkins for deciding to put me on the Metro to report on this story in the first place.


Struggling to piece together chaos at the zoo
BY PETER HERMANN, ZACH C. COHEN AND HARRY MISIKO
The Washington Post
April 23, 2014

Shortly past 5 p.m. Monday, the main entrance to the National Zoo teemed with people enjoying one of the attraction’s busiest days of the year. Tourists and mothers pushing baby carriages jostled for position as other visitors, enjoying the annual family day at the zoo, poured onto Connecticut Avenue.

Just then, a large crowd of men and women arrived at the zoo’s entrance. That came as authorities inside were in the process of expelling about three dozen disruptive youngsters from near the elephant exhibit. All of a sudden, hundreds of people milled about at the zoo’s entrance.

Then, at 5:17, someone pulled a gun and fired several shots. Once again — just like in 2000, when seven people were shot, and again in 2011, when a young boy was stabbed — an Easter Monday at the zoo became a day of terror and chaos for out-of-towners and native Washingtonians alike…read more…

Online: “Police search for motive in shooting outside National Zoo

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. 

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Categories Clips, Journalism, The Washington Post

‘Following animal deaths, “budget uncertainty,” National Zoo renews caretaker hiring’

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.

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Categories Clips, Journalism, The Washington Post

D.C. mayoral primary coverage

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.

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Categories Clips, Journalism, The Washington Post

The Eagle, ‘Half the Battle’ win regional SPJ awards

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.

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Categories American University, Journalism, Originals to zachccohen.com, School, The Eagle
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