Jonathan Cohn

Jonathan Cohn served as an editor and writer at The American Prospect from 1991 to 1997. He is now a senior editor at The New Republic, the author of Sick, and a senior fellow at Demos.

Recent Articles

Money Talks, Reform Walks

Last time around, campaign finance reform failed because it lacked public financing. Twenty years later, Congress seems determined to make the same mistake.

E ven by Washington-in-July standards, political consultant Steven Stockmeyer should have been sweating plenty this summer. In June, the Senate passed a bill banning campaign contributions from political action committees (PACs). Although the bill was weaker than many reform advocates had hoped, and although it still faced tough political obstacles in the House, the prognosis for Stockmeyer seemed grim. Stockmeyer is the spokesperson for several of Washington's largest PACs, and if the Senate bill were to become law, those clients presumably would face extinction. But Stockmeyer wasn't that worried. A veteran fundraiser for the Republican Party, he knew that the business of campaign finance would for the most part continue, even if the Senate bill did become law. The reason: for all its seemingly impressive provisions-- a ban on PAC money, limits on "soft money," restrictions on lobbying--it still lacked public financing. "The demand for money will still be there from candidates and...

The Fleece Police

I t's Wednesday night on the NBC Nightly News —time for yet another installment of "The Fleecing of America," the weekly series on government waste. Tonight's episode stars a job training program in Puerto Rico, designed to move seasonal farm workers off welfare and into better-paying, permanent work. "Nothing wrong with that, right?" Tom Brokaw asks. "Well," he frowns, "in Puerto Rico it can be much more expensive than effective." Correspondent Robert Hager reports that much of the money earmarked for job training each year goes for teaching routine farm work: "chores most farm hands, even backyard gardeners, learn on their own—work so basic you'd hardly expect the U.S. government to spend millions training people to do it." Sure enough, of the 1,125 workers who participated, only 37 got new, higher-paying jobs—and just 17 of them managed to keep those positions. That's $305,000 per job, Hager tells us, with a helpful graphic in case the point wasn't clear. A brief interview with...

Diary of the American Nightmare

T he Book of Revelations does not say whether the apocalypse will be televised. But if it is, WSVN in Miami will not have to interrupt its regular programming. It's July 18 -- the day of a visit by President Clinton to Miami -- and WSVN, the nation's most notorious tabloid station, is leading its ten o'clock newscast with yet another lurid murder story. "Let me let you take a look at the body of Carmen Rodriguez, still laying next to her car," reporter Glenn Milberg says as the camera zooms in on a white, body-shaped shroud with a pool of blood at one end. "That's exactly where she was shot a few hours ago." WSVN cuts from Milberg to film of the victim's son arriving at the scene and bursting into tears, then to taped footage of the body that shows the arm of Carmen Rodriguez extending out from under the canvas. WSVN manages to get five more bodies on screen within the next seven minutes, including the partially uncovered corpses of four teenagers killed in a car accident. We also see...

Perrier in the Newsroom

There was a day not far distant, you know, just before World War II, when nearly all of us news people, although perhaps white collar by profession, earned blue-collar salaries. We were part of the "common people." We suffered the same budgetary restraints, the same bureaucratic indignities, waited in the same lines, suffered the same bad service. We could identify with the average man because we were him. - Walter Cronkite S peaking to students at Rutgers University in 1993, President Clinton unveiled his plan to offer all Americans up to $10,000 a year in college loans. The students, many struggling with rising tuition bills, roared with approval. The press contingent shrugged. As Steven Waldman recounts in his recent book The Bill , one reporter muttered, "Ten thousand dollars? What's that gonna buy you?" Quipped another, "Yeah, I mean it costs four thousand to send your kid to nursery school." The networks barely covered the speech, and the next day most of the major dailies...

Should Journalists Do Community Service?

T he Philadelphia Inquirer should not have been embarrassed last May when the Wall Street Journal uncovered a scandal in a Philadelphia charity. Even Pulitzer magnets like the Inky sometimes miss big stories right under their noses. But this was no ordinary case of being scooped by out-of-town competition. The foundation that the Journal exposed as a scam had been the subject of a favorable profile in the Inquirer only two weeks earlier, and it turns out the same foundation had indirectly helped finance an Inquirer project. Worse still, the project was an experiment in public journalism, a controversial approach to newspapering criticized precisely for its potential to create ugly conflicts of interest. Since its emergence several years ago, few topics have generated as much controversy in the media business as public journalism. Less a point-by-point program than an evolving philosophy, public journalism stresses solution-oriented reporting and seeks to make the news media a...

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