Q&A: Gary Cohn Brings Attention to Hidden Public Issues
March 1, 2008
Filed under Uncategorized
As the world of journalism rapidly evolves into a world of entertainment, some reporters won’t settle for the easy route.
For over two decades, investigative reporter Gary Cohn has engaged in writing tough news stories that have served a purpose other than to entertain the public. His stories rather, have been an eye opener for many persistent issues that either been ignored or remained uncovered.
Cohn, who currently works as an investigative reporter for Bloomberg Market Magazine, has a passion for voicing the real truth about worldly injustices. More recently known for reporting on the “Schwarzenegger Groping” stories, Cohn has also reported on the corruption that took place inside Philadelphia’s largest municipal union, and on the eminent series of “Ship Breakers,” which won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1998.
Although Cohn seems like an ordinary guy, a reporter and faculty member at University of Southern California’s School of Communication, to many, he is a hero, someone who cared enough to do something. “He’s a hidden power because of his writing and investigative skills,” says Sara-Ellen Amster, a journalism professor at National University, “He really made a difference in the lives of people who would have never had an opportunity or access.”
Cohn was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended New York State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science. He went on to attend law school at the University of California at Berkeley, and completed the first year. After taking some time off to explore journalism, Cohn says he loved it too much to give it up.
Cohn still thinks about going back to finish law school, but he contends that investigative reporting is his number one love. Below is a Q&A in which Editor in Chief Gigi Palomera interviews the veteran journalist.
Q: As an investigative reporter, how do you react to people who say that you should just mind your own business?
A: “I say that it’s my job, my responsibility and my public duty to look into issues of public interest. It doesn’t affect me. I would have to say it turns me on.”
Q: Have you ever felt lousy or guilty about the consequences that followed someone after you uncovered what they had done? Why or why not?
A: “Some of the people I’ve written about have had some consequences that I didn’t feel good about, even going to jail. I didn’t feel bad doing the stories, but I didn’t feel good about what they went through. I don’t take pleasure in nailing people.”
Q: During the Schwarzenegger Groping stories,
were you surprised at how reluctant everyone was to speak out? How did you feel about that?
A: “I was not surprised because these women were very fearful of losing their jobs and possibly having a hard time finding new jobs in a very closed industry [Hollywood]. It just made me more determined with my story.”
Q: How do you deal with your own emotions when you are working on stories that are inevitably difficult to swallow?
A: “I use a little bit of that to keep me going. At the same time I try to look at things professionally. I don’t walk around angry. I’m not one of those reporters who are mad at the world.”
Q: What was your very first published story as a professional journalist?
A: “I was working for Jack Anderson in Washington. I wrote a story about members of congress getting free dental work from the US Navy.”
Q: As a reporter, what’s your biggest day-to-day challenge?
A: “I would say it’s finding the right story to work on and not settling for just anything. That’s the biggest challenge for me.”
Q: What do you want to be remembered for?
A: “I’d like to be remembered for stories that help make the world a better place.”
Despite Cohn’s effort to make journalism more than merely entertainment, he loves film. He will teach a course for National University in May that highlights the depiction of journalists in Hollywood movies.