Keeping D.C. Posted at The Washington Post

Zach at Post

Zach working on a story at his desk at The Washington Post

Dean’s Intern Zach Cohen at The Washington Post

As cliche as it sounds, I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to work at The Washington Post. I’m a daily print subscriber, and I have turned to its political coverage ever since arriving in Washington as a freshman at American University.

Now, thanks to an opportunity afforded to me by American University School of Communication and The Washington Post, some of the industry’s best and brightest reporters and writers sit just a couple of feet away from me in any direction. They cover everything from the White House and foreign policy to deaths of loved ones and panda bears.

The place runs like clockwork, an organized chaos that manages to put together a full daily newspaper and run a website that is updated minute-by-minute. If you take a look around at my colleagues’ desks, it’s clear they live and breathe this work. Each cubicle is piled high with newspapers, books, notebooks and the occasional coffee cup lid.

As an SOC Dean’s Intern, I write for the Local desk, penning obituaries and stories about crime and education. It’s a great gig. I’m learning a lot about story research, and the editors are giving great feedback on my writing. Most of my stuff ends up in the print edition. For all the digital revolution happening in this industry, reporting that is good enough to make The Washington Post print edition is still a respected feat.

Some days, I know what projects I’m working on before I walk into the Post’s office on 15th Street. Some stories I’ve pitched to editors and turned around the next day’s paper, and others take two or three days to complete (coming soon).

But at any moment, I could be asked to cover a homicide in Seven Corners, Va. or at Virginia Tech, or I could write an obituary for a local notable that has passed. I’ve written obituaries for human and octopus alike. My favorite piece so far was an obituary for Bill Irwin, the first blind hiker to traverse the Appalachian Trail. I also contribute reporting to others’ stories (especially about snow) including one that landed on A1.

But it’s clear that I am a small fish in a big pond. That doesn’t mean that I’m unqualified to intern here (at least I hope that’s the case). But I’m still an intern, and I respect that fact. The ease at which everybody around me reports and writes is testament to the years of experience that live in these four walls.

It remains to be seen if this internship will translate to a job after I graduate in May. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the opportunity I have now and am trying to soak up as much as I can while I’m here. That is, if I get a break between deadlines to step back and look above my cubicle walls.

Get updates on Zach’s work on Twitter or on his blog