David Cohn

Senior Director • Advance Digital • San Francisco, CA
Last edited March 12, 2019

During his career David Cohn has worked on some of the first experiments in distributed reporting, crowdfunding, socially optimized content, citizen journalism and mobile first storytelling.

In the industry he is known for launching the first crowdfunding platform for journalists in 2008, “Spot.Us.” This was followed by his efforts leading editorial at Circa, which at the time was critically hailed as pioneering a new form of mobile storytelling. Then he joined AJ+ as an Executive Producer just before its launch and helped it burst onto the scene. David is currently a Senior Director of The Alpha Group, which does in-house incubation for Advance Digital.

Part of David Cohn’s Twitter bio says “I love you,” and if you work in this industry, that’s true.

David has volunteered as an ONA Board Member for four years and has served as its Treasurer and part of the Executive Committee for three years.

David has also served on the board of the local nonprofit news organization, the San Francisco Public Press, and the journalism program at De Anza Community College. He’s taught at UC Berkeley’s Journalism School whenever they’ve asked him.

In short, he helps out where he can.

Below is David’s submission as a 2018 Board of Directors candidate.


The Online News Association is about making sure that we, as a community of forward thinking journalists, have a strong sense of who we are and what we value. It’s also about making sure we understand the impact we can have on the larger media industry.

The journalism industry has lots of little communities within it. ONA represents an important and growing faction. Once outsiders and underdogs, in just 17 years ONA has come to represent the future, growth, diversity, excitement and adventure in journalism. That’s a powerful place to land. But it begs the question, what now?

As the organization has grown within the larger industry, we should think about how that reflects and can expand outward to the world. An example of this is the Online Journalism Awards. The Pulitzers are 100 years old, the OJAs are only 17, but they’ve grown in prestige quickly. And yes, awards can be thought of as journalists congratulating each other, but it’s also a statement of values and shows outsiders what we hold dear. ONA needs to do more of that and go beyond awards, especially in an era when powerful people refer to our colleagues as “fake.”

I want an ONA that is strong in its voice and conviction about what is right in the world. On World Press Freedom Day 2017 we joined a plethora of press organizations in making a statement of solidarity. I want ONA to take a leadership role in helping our community speak truth to power.

I want ONA to grow a strong and diverse membership at the local level. As stated above, there are lots of facets in the media industry. Local ONAs can be a catalyst for new communities to come together. I can speak to this personally — ONA members were at times the closest thing I had to colleagues. I want to make sure we provide that to people all across the US and beyond. A focus on local leaders will strengthen our geographic diversity but also across all intersections, provided we keep this goal in mind as we build up local leaders.

What do I bring to the table? I’ve been part of ONA for a decade. Many of you know me and the work I do. But the simple truth is: The most important thing I bring to the ONA board is caring. I care deeply about the fate of ONA and its future. I want ONA to reflect the community, to represent its values outward, and I want ONA to take care of its members and provide new opportunities for them. I am not a rocket scientist. I am not independently wealthy. But I do know our industry and I care about it and I care about you. I would love the opportunity to serve you again as a board member, for one last time — during which I hope to infect future leaders with my passion for the community and train a future ONA Treasurer.

Industry Involvement

I’ve been a board member of ONA for four years and I’ve been the Treasurer and part of the Executive Committee for three years.

I’ve been an OJA first-round screener for five years. I was chair of the organizing committee for the SF ONA conference in 2012. I’ve been active in my local ONA.

In the industry: I’ve helped organize many events, spoken at many schools to journalism students and have worked in the industry for over a decade. I’ve put the focus of my career on expanding what is possible for journalism, stretching boundaries and helping where I can.


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