Local Luminary: Jeff Cohen | View From The Top | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Local Luminary: Jeff Cohen 

Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:19 pm
FAIR founder Jeff Cohen
  • FAIR founder Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen is a writer, lecturer, and media critic who founded the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting in 1986. A former co-host of CNN’s “Crossfire” (1996) and a pundit on Fox News Channel (1997-2002), Cohen was an on-air commentator (and “Donahue” senior producer) at MSNBC in 2002-03 before the show was cancelled in the run-up to the Iraq War. A Woodstock resident, Cohen is currently on tour behind his latest book, Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media. His columns have been published in dozens of dailies, including USA Today, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Newsday. Cohen is currently consulting for a variety of progressive groups and writing columns for the websites CommonDreams, Truthout, and Alternet. In 2003, he was the communications director of the “Kucinich for President” campaign. www.jeffcohen.org.

Why do you choose to live in the Hudson Valley?
Gorgeous surroundings. Great place to raise kids. Progressive, literate, artistic culture, with institutions like Golden Notebook bookstore, Upstate Films, WDST, Chronogram, Woodstock Times, Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Mayor Jason West—to name just a few. (It’s a shame we lost Alternative Video.) Our community has more writers per capita than anywhere I know. And the winters aren’t too cold anymore—unfortunately, thanks to global warming.

What’s the strangest thing in your fridge?
Pasta from Venezuela that I purchased last year from one of the thousands of government-subsidized food stores set up by the administration of President Hugo Chavez. Can’t beat the price—or the political slogans on the package.

Who are you in awe of?
Steve Colbert, perhaps the most brilliant satirist in America today. Never leaving character as a flag-waving, conservative TV blowhard (I met many in my TV career), he can do more in a 22-minute “Colbert Report” to expose the contradictions of right-wing demagoguery than a dozen books can. And he’d be happy with me for putting down the utility of books!
Also, the late Molly Ivins. A force of nature, now making the angels laugh. St. Molly, patron saint of column writers.

What was the worst job you ever had?
Selling toilet bowl cleaners door-to-door in New Orleans at age 19. Or the next year when I was a stock clerk at my dad’s clothing store in Detroit…until he fired me over my union activities. One of my best jobs, ironically, was the five years I spent as a TV pundit on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel; it’s hard to beat a job where you get to denounce Darth Murdoch while getting paid by Darth Murdoch.

What do you sing along to in the car?
Elvis Costello. Van Morrison. Jackson Browne. When my daughters complain about my singing, I tell them, without any evidence at all, that Springsteen’s kids complain to him about his singing.

What was the last thing that made you laugh uncontrollably?
It happened at a recent reunion of national leaders of the 2004 “Kucinich for President” campaign. Back in 2003, I nearly cried when Letterman did his Top Ten list of “Worst Summer Jobs” and announced: “Number 4: Dennis Kucinich for President campaign manager.” Now I laugh my ass off.

What takes your breath away?
Being near ground zero in Lower Manhattan. Sunsets over the Ashokan Reservoir. Rickie Lee Jones singing “Company.”

What must happen to give you the feeling that a day has been well lived?
Output. As much as I hate to admit my internal colonization by the Puritans and their work ethic, there’s no better feeling than getting an article finished. Except for getting two finished.

What ordinary thing is very hard for you to do?
Cooking. Whistling. So I’m doubly challenged when I try to whistle in the kitchen.

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