Zach Cohen at National Press Club in Washington, D.C. June 11, right after being honored as a Gridiron Fellow.

Cohen at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. June 11, right after being honored as a Gridiron Fellow.

It’s a real honor to say that the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation of Washington, D.C., the nonprofit, education arm of the Washington, D. C. Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, has named me a Gridiron Fellow, based on the famous Gridiron Club, D.C.’s oldest journalism club, that funded part of the scholarship.

I was officially recognized for receiving the scholarship June 11 at the annual Dateline Awards Dinner and Hall of Fame Ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

To be considered, I filled out an application and enlisted the help of Professor Rick Rockwell to write me a letter of recommendation. Rick has been an incredible mentor in my studies of radio journalism and Latin America, and I could not be happier to have his words of support during that process.

I was surprised one day to get a call from the one and only Reginald Stuart. We scheduled an interview with him, David Hess, Amy Fickling, Maura Judkis and me, and we had a great conversation about my goals as well as the present and future challenges and opportunities of the news media.

(Little did they know that I had come from watching my girlfriend Rachel Karas — also an SDX Scholarship recipient and my +1 for the dinner — run in the  Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon, which shut down the city and made it harder for those same panelists to make it to the McClatchy’s Washington Bureau for the interview.)

I really enjoyed that conversation, and it sounds like they did, too. Reginald called me a couple of weeks later as I tried to catch a train at Union Station. I was trying to pick up a burger and fries from a Johnny Rockets as I heard him ask: “Would you ever consider doing something other than journalism?”

I guffawed. Journalism has been my lifeblood for the past three years, and to do anything but investigate and tell stories just doesn’t seem right.

Reginald wrote later that the panelists found me “sharp, witty and collegial” (no idea where they’re getting that from), so I got the scholarship.

Being at the National Press Club and being honored with all the other SDX Scholarship winners, Marlena Chertock (who coincidentally I met right before we had our respective interviews), Brian Compere and Brett Hall, was an unbelievable experience. At the same ceremony, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, The Washington Post’s Tom Boswell, PBS NewsHour’s Terence Smith and the late Haynes Johnson were all inducted into the SPJ D.C. Hall of Fame.

(Not only that, but American University alumnus, former Eagle editor-in-chief and good friend Brett Zongker was a finalist for a Dateline Award.)

I also had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Glass from Politico, a member of the same Gridiron Club whose foundation funded part of my scholarship, and Joel Whitaker of Kane’s Beverage News Daily.

I can only hope I can live up to the hope that SPJ places in this scholarship, that I continue to strive to serve the public as an insightful and truthful journalist.

[View the story “DC SPJ Hall of Fame Dinner 2013” on Storify]

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