The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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Journalist shares experience of reporting on Congressional activities

Cohen discusses the Speaker of the House elections as students watch the live broadcast on C-SPAN.

Journalist Richard Cohen’s eyes crinkle with pleasure behind his glasses as he smiles at the crowd of seniors filing into the lecture hall. As he begins to speak, the chatter from the audience dies down. This was not a regular government class. Cohen was here to teach the students through his own first-hand experience with Congress on Jan. 3.

Cohen was a congressional correspondent for POLITICO and the National Journal. He has received the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting.

Speaking of his experience covering Congress, Cohen touched on both the workings inside the Capitol and journalism in the modern era.

“Journalism has changed a lot in the last 40 years, for better and for worse,” he said. Though he acknowledged that stories are now developing faster than ever, Cohen also recognized that accelerated publication calls for more caution on the writer’s part.

“The pressure to be fast sometimes results in journalists being less accurate, wrong or incomplete,” he said.

Coincidentally, Congress was voting for the Speaker of the House during Cohen’s talk. The students were able to tune into C-SPAN to watch the election, while Cohen explained the various procedures and formalities.

As predicted, Boehner was re-elected by the Republican House, but Cohen pointed out that the 15 representatives voting “Other,” or “Present” signified that many congressmen were not happy with Boehner.

Students were also able to ask questions regarding major issues Congress is currently dealing with such as gun control laws and the fiscal cliff. When explaining how decisions were made for the fiscal cliff, Cohen referred to a flow chart in the AP Government textbook on how a bill becomes a law.

During the fiscal cliff negotiations, most of the decisions were made at the leadership level, even though the model shows that all members of Congress and several committees should be taking part in the decision-making process.

“It is a widely accepted model for how Congress operates or how Congress ought to operate,” Cohen said, “but increasingly, we’re finding that the textbook model isn’t working or that Congress is going around and circumventing it. And that’s a factor in our unhappiness and in Congress’ unhappiness.”

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