You Should Know… Matt Cohen

Photo by David Stuck
Photo by David Stuck

Like many in Washington, Matt Cohen is an overachiever. At 27, this Rockville native and current Northeast Washington resident serves as editor-in-chief of after joining the news website  two years ago as a writer. Gothamist is the operator, in some cases franchiser, of eight, city-centric blogs around the world.

Do you identify as a native Washingtonian?

I mean, it’s complicated. That’s such a contentious claim. I was born in D.C. and my parents lived—and I lived with them—in D.C. until I was three. And then they decamped for the suburbs. I grew up in Rockville, so I’ve lived in the area my whole life. It kind of depends on how you define “Washington native.” I just say ‘D.C.-area native.’ People get very touchy about [it].

You’re the editor-in-chief of DCist. What do you do on a daily basis?

Too much! I run the website, I write, edit, report, run social media, shape the direction of the site, manage freelancers…DCist has always been a two-person team, so I’m one of the two people that keeps it going. I do a lot of blogging during the day, edit freelancers’ stuff, try to go out and do reporting and try to make original content and find interesting stories to tell. [There’s] often not enough time in the day to do all of that, and sometimes I’m doing more of one thing than another thing. But that’s essentially what I do.

What do you love most about your job?

There’s a lot of freedom to do whatever we want. We’re owned by Gothamist in New York, and they are our bosses. But they are really great at letting all the different “-ist” sites that they technically own sort of operate [by] themselves. I don’t  really get told, “you should do this,” or “you should do that.” I just have to figure it out and [say], “I think this is an interesting story, I’m going to do it.”

Sometimes it works. Sometimes I write stuff that’s really weird and no one really clicks on it. But it at least made me happy, and then I can go back to writing a post about Bao Bao (the National Zoo’s Giant Panda cub) that will get thousands of page views.

Is there anything you’ve written that you’re really proud of?

Last fall, I did this piece, spent a couple of days reporting about it. There’s this charter school in D.C., E.L. Hanes, they’re a new charter school. So their first senior class, they had [students] do this yearlong sociology seminar, and they spent a whole unit about gentrification in D.C. For part of that, they took the kids to neighborhoods all over D.C., from Barry Farms and Anacostia to [Shaw], to see the effects of gentrification. They’re natives and their families have lived there forever and they’re getting priced out of their neighborhoods.

We hear you’re also a musician.

I play in a lot of bands. I grew up playing punk music, bass guitar, and I just kept doing it. Right now I’m playing in three or four bands. I can’t say no when people say, ‘let’s start a band.’ It’s just hard for me to do it, but they’re all new. I used to play in this one band for 2 ½ years with two of my best friends—and then one of them moved to Chicago, so we broke up. After that, whoever asked to play music, I would say, ‘Yeah, OK, sure.’ It’s fun.

I sometimes book shows in the area for friends’ bands that are travelling. Some friends and I, we put on a music festival last summer called In It Together Fest. It’s a DIY punk, art, sort of every creative outlet that we could get, festive celebration.

We try to make it like a completely inclusive celebration of all of D.C.’s creative communities, with a focus on music. We had concerts all over the city. We’re in the middle of planning for this year. It’s great and a headache.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here