FishbowlDC Interview With NJ’s Marin Cogan


The most important thing you need to know about National Journal reporter Marin Cogan is that she will not procreate with Anthony Weiner under any circumstances — not even if the Earth will die it. F–k it. “Let ‘er burn!” she says. Now that she’s earned our full respect with that answer, let’s learn a little more about her, shall we?

homepicIf you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Ginger beer. Mostly spicy, a little sweet, and temperamentally suited to the elderly.

How often do you Google yourself? Once every few months, I decide I should check to make sure someone hasn’t written something horrible. In general, I try not to look too often–the internet can be a weird and anarchic place, and worrying too much about what people say about you isn’t the best use of one’s time. I mean, unless you’re a terrible person. Then it’s probably a good use of your time.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? Last year I kept coming back from the campaign trail to find my cat looking all weepy and red-eyed. I was overcome with this irrational fear that he’d die while I was away, so I took him to a vet. Thankfully, I had an editor who was sympathetic, because one day after I figured out what it was, I had to email him and say, “I’m going to be a day late on that story. My cat has seasonal allergies!”

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? Jeanne Marie Laskas. No wait! Jason Zengerle. No wait! Mark Leibovich. Wait!–I could go on like this…

Do you have a favorite word? Tessellate

What word or phrase do you overuse? I’m not sure, but I definitely use em dashes and semicolons way too much.

Who would you rather have lunch with – MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinksi, CNN’s Kate Bolduan or CBS’s Gayle King. Tell us why. Mika–because of this.

What is the most interesting conversation you’ve had in the course of your journalism career? Too hard to pick just one, but I’ve loved every conversation I’ve had with the House GOP delegation from South Carolina. They’re such funny, interesting, engaging guys. One night during the primary I found Mark Kelly sitting alone at the bar of a hotel where Rick Santorum was holding an election night rally; he just happened to be in town on business, and I drank with him while the speech went on in the ballroom above our heads. On the day before the Florida primary, while all the other candidates were criss-crossing the state, I spent the day with Buddy Roemer as he tried (with little success) to convince the attendees of the ACLU’s annual staff conference to vote for him for president–and found him fun and hilarious.

Unknown-3The Earth’s human population is dying out and you must save it. You will spend a romantic evening with either Anthony Weiner or Eliot Spitzer? Who will it be? (Neither is not an option.) Honestly, in this case, the earth is not worth saving. Let ’er burn.

Tell us a funny story from your time as a journalist. Can be long or short. Recently I did a story about the dark art students were submitting to the Congressional Art Competition. It prominently featured a winning photo by a girl who captured one of her fellow high school students wearing a zipper face costume. The night it ran, I got an email from a student telling me I needed to investigate whether or not the winning artist made the costume–the implication being that if she didn’t make the costume, she wasn’t responsible for the winning photo. It felt like my Watergate moment. I wanted to write back: “Meet me in the parking garage. I’ll wear my trench coat. You wear your zipper face.”

Who do you think will be the candidates in the next presidential election? Just one on each side, please. A sociopathic womanizer who doesn’t practice what he preaches and a sociopathic rich guy who doesn’t like poor people. Just a guess!

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? Vibrate.

It’s 3 a.m. and you get up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Do you check your BlackBerry or iPhone? Only for the time. No way I want to read my email at 3 a.m.

What word do you routinely misspell? Gaurdian. Guardian. See? I can’t do it.

What swear word do you use most often? All of them.

If you weren’t a journalist what would you be? Either a writer of middlebrow crime novels or a therapist. People are the most fascinating things on the planet.

You’ve just been told the big news: You get to have your own Sunday morning talk show. Who will be on your roundtable? (Pick four journalists or pundit types.) I’d go with Suzy Khimm, Dayo Olopade, Julia Ioffe and Seyward Darby. And then, while they were talking, I’d slowly roll my office chair into a dark corner of the studio and let them say smart things for the rest of the show.

When you pig out what do you eat? Paint chips

If you could influence journalism in one way right now what would it be? I’d make it way more diverse–especially racially and socioeconomically. And that would require figuring out ways to make internships and early jobs better paid, so young people who might otherwise be interested wouldn’t be drawn to more lucrative fields. It’d involve elevating perspectives and interests that are different from the perspectives you usually see elevated in political journalism.

When did you last cry and why? I think while watching this great Bianca Giaever video last weekend. I will basically cry for any movie, TV commercial, YouTube clip, inspirational gif…

What TV show is your guilty pleasure? 
It used to be True Blood, except that I felt little to no guilt about it. Now when I’m looking for a good, circular hate-watch–I hate the characters, they hate themselves, the network hates them, I hate myself for watching–I always tune into Bravo.

images-4What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken? A month in India, culminating in New Year’s Eve on a beach on the southern tip of the subcontinent.

Have you ever had a near-death experience? As a kid I once fell through the ice dunes on Lake Erie. As this helpful Erie Times News lede explains: “Fall through an ice dune in winter and your body might not be found until spring.” Noted.

Ever been arrested? Not yet. 😉

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. This isn’t a surprise to my close friends, but I’m secretly part-circus freak: really into acrobatic yoga and more recently aerial.

What scares you? Whatever it is that compels people to run for office.

Who is your mentor? The guys I first worked with at The New Republic are the ones I still look up to and seek guidance from the most: Frank Foer, Jason Zengerle, Jonathan Chait, Jonathan Cohn and Ryan Lizza. I’m pretty lucky to count them as my mentors.

What and where was your first job in journalism? I was a reporter-researcher at The New Republic.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? Other than struggling to figure out which lawmaker I’m talking to? In the past, I’ve written some crap stories that I felt I couldn’t say no to.

Have you ever been fired? Not yet 😉

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? While reading the @Vice_Is_Hip Twitter feed. It. is. so. good.

When and why did you last lose your temper? I am so terrible at getting angry that I think I lack the anger gene. But when my cat wants to troll me, he jumps up on the mail table and scratches at the letters incessantly. That’s pretty effective at driving me nuts.

Who is your favorite Kardashian? Remember that time the brother carved a bear with a chainsaw out of a tree stump? That stump bear is my favorite Kardashian. I think his name was Kodiak. Kodiak Kardashian. The runner up would be Kanye.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? Burn After Reading

Unknown-4Who would you want to play you in a movie? It would be Aubrey Plaza whether I wanted her to or not, but I love her, so it’s all good.

Name jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): Lemonade vendor, sugar plum fairy, mall wench, hostess of Pittsburgh’s only Ethiopian restaurant.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it? Oh good lord, no. If I ever make one please remind me that it’s time to auto-defenestrate.

Who should just call it a day? Probably me.

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be? Something from Rasika. That or the paint chips.

From Reason’s Peter Suderman: You’re given a choice between living a normal length life looking like you’re 28 and a thousand year life in which your age shows the whole time. Which would you pick and why? Seriously, Peter? How is this even a question? 1,000 years on earth sounds like hell. Aging that long sounds even worse. 28 til I die, please.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. Make it good. It could live on infamy. What’s your favorite DC bar, and why? (You can tell a lot about a person by her bar.)