Archives for the month of: May, 2014

I am thrilled to announce that I’ll be joining National Journal full-time a week from tomorrow as a web producer for Hotline.

From my new office at The Watergate (yes, that Watergate), I’ll be working with Hotline Editor-in-Chief Scott Bland and the amazing political team there to cover every national political race.

Hotline is a paywalled, customizable, subscriber-only product covering all 435 Congressional races as well as each election cycle’s batch of Senate and gubernatorial contests, providing “exclusive insight on politics, polling, and campaign developments culled from more than 2,500 media sources, as well as campaign finance reports from the Federal Election Commission.”

And I’ll be putting it all together. I’m charged with combining the phenomenal reporting of the staff and presenting the news our readers need to know about the races they care about.

This is nothing less than a dream job coming out of school. It’s truly an honor, just after graduation from American University, to stay in my home of four years, Washington, D.C., and dive head-first into national political reporting. I’ve always respected Atlantic Media, my new employer, for its dedication to producing excellent and thought-provoking journalism through its many brands, including The Atlantic, Quartz, The Wire, Government Executive Media Group and more.

What happens (or doesn’t happen) in Washington depends on what happens in your home district. I can’t wait to get started.

My last assignment for The Washington Post involved going to the D.C. Superior Court to report on a federal official’s arraignment.

Federal official denies threatening to shoot ex-boss
BY DINA ELBOGHDADY AND ZACH C. COHEN Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.
The Washington Post
May 15, 2014

A high-ranking federal official who faces a felony charge for allegedly threatening to shoot the former head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency appeared in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday and, through his lawyer, denied the allegations lodged against him.

Richard Hornsby, 58, allegedly threatened former FHFA acting director Edward J. DeMarco after receiving a review last month for his performance as the agency’s chief operating officer, according to a court document…read more…

Online: “Federal official denies threatening to kill boss or ‘shoot him in the kneecap’”

The former president of American University’s Student Government, Sarah McBride, was recently profiled in Metro Weekly. In the feature by Justin Snow, Sarah talks about her experience with myself and the rest of The Eagle staff immediately after her coming out.

“Sarah McBride: The Next Generation Awards 2014”

After telling other family and friends, including Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, over a fourth-month period, McBride was contemplating how to come out to the broader American University community. Not wanting the second half of her term as president to be overshadowed by her transitioning, she waited until it was nearly finished. She decided on a Facebook note, and within an hour the editor of the student newspaper [Zach Cohen] walked into her office.

He wanted to know two things. Should the paper be using her new name, Sarah, and female pronouns? “Absolutely.” And would she consider condensing her Facebook post as an op/ed for the next day’s issue?

“I remember walking into the student newspaper office after I’d posted this online, so word had already gotten out. I remember everyone just sort of staring at me. No one knew what to do as I walked back into the editor’s office to condense my Facebook post. But when I came out of there everyone had big smiles on their faces and people gave me hugs,” she recalls. “It really was nothing but love and support.”

In a time that has seen high-profile journalists like Katie Couric and Piers Morgan face criticism for how they’ve conducted interviews with transgender celebrities, McBride says the students at The Eagle acted exactly “how we want the media to be when covering trans issues.”

My latest for the obituary section.

“I feel it’s a little ironic after having worked in Moscow and Vietnam and Beirut — to find my Pulitzer in a little town in North Carolina,” Mr. Coughlin said in 1990. “It says if you set your standards high enough, you can be just as good as big-town newspapers.”

Editor led exposé that won Pulitzer
The Washington Post
May 14, 2014

William J. Coughlin, who traversed four continents as a foreign correspondent before guiding a 10,000-circulation North Carolina newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation into cancer-causing chemicals in the municipal water supply, died May 8 at a hospice in Bolivia, N.C. He was 91.

read more…

Online: “William J. Coughlin, who led small North Carolina newspaper to a Pulitzer, dies at 91”

Here’s an odd news story for you: A guy pretending to be God attacked the ABC affiliate in Baltimore with a stolen truck. And then ABC2 started reporting on its own newsroom as a crime scene.

So great getting to work with Baltimore crime reporting veteran Peter Hermann on this story.

Truck attack silences TV station
peter. Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.
The Washington Post
May 14, 2014

A man rammed a stolen landscaping truck into the lobby of a Baltimore television station Tuesday, police said, prompting a standoff that forced the building’s evacuation and knocked the ABC affiliate off the air for hours.

Authorities in Baltimore County eventually entered the building and found the man armed with a golf club and holed up in a second-floor editing room, where he was watching television accounts of the incident…read more…

Online: “Police arrest man suspected of crashing truck into Baltimore news station”

An updated story came the following day with the release of the police report and the charges, along with a little extra reporting.

Crash suspect claims reincarnation
BY PETER HERMANN AND ZACH C. COHEN Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.
The Washington Post
May 15 2014

A 28-year-old man charged with ramming a truck into a Baltimore television station Tuesday told police he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and King Tutankhamun and wanted to expose what he called the “multiverses” where bad things happen to people and they disappear, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Police said Vladi­mir Mehul Baptiste roamed through WMAR-TV’s headquarters north of Baltimore — prompting a 41 / 2-hour standoff that knocked the ABC affiliate (Channel 2) off the air until after 5 p.m. — and was finally arrested as he watched newscasts of himself from an editing office while holding a golf club…read more…

Updated story the next day: “Suspect in Baltimore TV station crash said he was reincarnation of Jesus Christ and King Tut”

Zach Cohen on the American University quad on Saturday after graduating with a bachelor's degree.

Zach on the American University quad on Saturday after graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

After four years of sleepless nights and caffeine-induced days, I graduated magna cum laude from American University with a bachelor of arts in international studies from the School of International Service on Saturday. I also graduated with minors in communication, Spanish and theater.

It has been an incredible four years. As cliché as it sounds, it seems like yesterday when my parents dropped me off at the Sharjah Plaza outside SIS.

American University was never my first choice of college, but it has always been destined to be my home. With strong programs in international relations, journalism, theatre and political science, AU was on my mom’s radar before it was ever on mine. The first time I visited campus was during Snowpocalypse, so the little of campus we could see was buried in snow.

But AU quickly became my home. I enrolled in the University College for Theater, where I lived and studied with theater students under Professor Gail Humphries-Mardirosian, where we studied Aristotle’s Poetics, Greek theater, Shakespeare and so much more. I went to the Folger Shakespeare Library more times than I can count that semester, which started in the renowed Shakespeare library/theater by volunteering to clean up their space during the Freshman Service Experience.

In the brand new School of International Service building and throughout campus, I tackled the chief problems of the world in challenging courses such as:

  • “World Politics” with Professor Manuel Suarez-Mier. After the Honors graduation ceremony Friday, he showed me his program, where he had placed a check mark next to each one of his students. Professor Suarez-Mier offered a phenomenal entry point into the economic side of how the world works.
  • “Contemporary Media in a Global Society” with Professor Lois Romano, where I was introduced to the challenges of international media, including my first of many investigations into press censorship in Mexico.
  • “Media and U.S. Foreign Policy” and “Introduction to International Relations Research” with the wonderful Professor Elizabeth Cohn, who challenged me not just in academics but in the spelling of my last name.
  • “Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy” with Professor Guy Ziv, who schooled me once or twice and challenged my preconceived notions of the implementation of IR theory in current events.
  • “International Economic Policy” with Professor Krista Tuomi, who demanded rigor in our understanding of economics and gave me the opportunity to study a subject near to my heart: the economics of newspapers.
  • “West & the Islamic World Post-9/11” with Professor Akbar Ahmed, for whom I completed my capstone on the differences between American-born and immigrant Muslims and their practice of Islam.

I never majored in journalism, contrary to the belief of half of the AU community. But I did get the opportunity to take some great classes in the School of Communication, including:

  • “Politics, Campaigns and the Media” with Professor Richard Benedetto, for whom I wrote an Honors supplement on the distinct similarities between the 2004 and 2012  presidential elections.
  • “Writing/Editing for Convergent Media” with Professor Amy Eisman, where we created our own newsroom and produced an journalistic report on the lives of millennial veterans.
  • “Legal Aspects of Communication” with Professor Cori Zarek. Because of that class, I know my rights as a journalist, and I treasure that summer for it.
  • “Media and Democracy in Latin America” with Professor Rick Rockwell. Rick has since become not just my professor and not just my producer. But I consider him a friend. I wish him the best of luck in his new adventures as he leaves AU this summer.
  • “Foreign Correspondence” with Professor Bill Gentile. If I ever give myself the opportunity to work overseas, I will have all the tools I need at my disposal to succeed thanks to him and wonderful guest speakers like Hannah Allam and Carmen Gentile.

I’ll always have a place in my heart for theater. My acting classes with Professors Javier Rivera and Carl Menninger not only made me a better actor, but they allowed me to better understand myself. In “Introduction to Stage Design” with Professor Meghan Raham, I learned the finer points of composing images that stir the heart and mind, concepts that I have sought to achieve in my own visual work. Eventually I stopped taking notes in “Theatre History I” with Professor Sybil Roberts because her intellect was so far beyond normal human understanding. I always left that class pondering both theater and life as well as the relationship between the two. I worked the light board for a production of “The Who’s Tommy” and climbed on ladders to hang lights in the Greenberg Theatre, even when that meant being suspended 50 feet over the orchestra pit.

In “Masterpieces of Music” with Professor Marc Medwin, who introduced me to Bach and John Cage, for better or for worse.

I read Homeric epics late into the night in order to prepared for the next day’s class.

I worked with classmates (and my future roommate) to understand the mind-bending, theoretical concepts in “Great Ideas in Mathematics” with Professor Matthew Konicki.

And let’s not forget “Understanding Media” with Professor Rodger Streitmatter, “Physics for the Modern World” with Professor Teresa Larkin, “Writing for Mass Communication” with Professor Lymari “FOMO” Morales, and many more.

Turner’s David Aldridge often jokes that he “majored in Eagle” when he was at AU.

I agree wholeheartedly. The newsroom of The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper, was my learning laboratory. I learned the finer points of interviewing sources, building beats, research, AP Style and just a dash of crisis management, both in terms of editorial controversy and budgetary overhaul.

I count the journalists in that room as my closest friends, and I’m incredibly proud of what we accomplished together there. While there were plenty of times I should have spent more time out of that room and in the library working on the classes mentioned earlier, I don’t regret a second. I relished the opportunity to teach and learn the art and science of journalism.

When I wasn’t in the newsroom or classroom, I was usually on stage. Dime a Dozen, AU’s co-ed a capella group, was a place for me to sing my heart out, albeit usually in walking bass lines.

I acted in both mainstage and student-run productions, including a children’s musical about the Holocaust, a less-well-known Tennessee Williams play by the name of “Orpheus Descending,” and two Shakespeare plays (“Macbeth” and “Julius Caesar,” the former of which we performed in the garage of the Katzen Arts Center for just a spice of ominous echo).

I’m left not knowing a lot of things, like if my tuition was really worth it. I definitely never did all the homework or get every question right.

But I do know that AU has set me on the right track for a life of learning. I’ve got a bookshelf filled with books I’ve collected over the years, and I know who to turn to online and off for the best information.

Most importantly, the innumerable friends I’ve made have left an indelible mark on my life, and I’m so lucky to have met them. I’ll never forget the late night walks on the National Mall and conversations about everything over pizza and leftovers.

I’m lucky to have a liberal arts education, built from literal blood, sweat and tears. In pixels and ink, I have spilled more words than I care to count. Here’s to hoping I learned something in the process.

I’m nothing but ecstatic for what comes next.

Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.

I spent Saturday manning the crime beat at The Washington Post.

Here’s what I covered:

“Police arrest Thaddeus Desean Bailey Saturday in fatal stabbing of Hyattsville man”

“Roads near collapsed building have reopened”

“Police seeking suspect in Ferndale Royal Farms convenience store shooting”

One of those stories ended up in Sunday’s print edition.

Man sought in shooting at store
— Zach C. Cohen
The Washington Post Sunday
May 4, 2014

Police are searching for the man they believe shot a 20-year-old man several times at a convenience store in Anne Arundel County, Md., early Saturday morning.

Authorities were called to the Royal Farms store in the 7200 block of Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard at 1:12 a.m. for a reported shooting. There they found a man with multiple gunshot wounds. Police said he had gotten into an altercation with a man, who then shot him before fleeing on foot from the store….read more…

I spent yesterday talking to current and former Pepco, BGE, ComEd and PECO customers with the hopes of understanding the impact a sale of Pepco to Chicago-based Exelon would have on customers in the D.C.-Metro area.

Online: Pepco customers can learn from experience of Exelon customers who use BGE

My reporting also ended up in a print article on A1.

Pepco takeover will bring better service, Exelon says
The Washington Post
May 1, 2014

Nuclear-energy giant Exelon launched a $6.8 billion takeover of Washington’s century-old local electric company on Wednesday, promising long-suffering Pepco customers better service and a quicker response when the lights do go out.

Consumer advocates and government officials across Pepco’s service area, which includes the District and much of suburban Maryland, largely welcomed the proposed merger, which would inject fresh resources and personnel into a company whose record for reliability has long ranked among the worst in the nation….read more…

Online: “Nuclear giant Exelon to buy Washington’s Pepco in $6.8 billion energy deal”

My latest on the crime beat for The Washington Post.

Online: “Great Falls woman charged with hosting party where 15-year-old girl overdosed on alcohol”