Cohen joins the university after a 25-year journalism career, most recently leading a data journalism team at The New York Times that specialized in original reporting. As a database editor for The Washington Post, she shared in the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for her work on a report that exposed the failures of the District of Columbia's child protective services to prevent deaths. She also was a Pulitzer finalist for Public Service in 2007 for a series that uncovered waste and duplication in federal farm subsidy programs. Other honors include the Goldsmith Prize in Investigative Reporting, the Investigative Reporters and Editors medal, and the Selden Ring Award.
At Duke, Cohen's research concentrated on new technologies that could help lower the cost of investigative reporting by reducing the most repetitive and least creative parts of the job. She is finishing a project for Columbia focusing on data science applications in investigative reporting.
Cohen is the immediate past president of Investigative Reporters and Editors, a 5,000-member journalism educational and training organization. She has served as a board member and adviser to the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Center for Investigative Reporting.