A new biography of Cohen, Mark appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Mark Cohen was born on 26 November 1849 in London, the son of Hyam Cohen and Caroline, née Benjamin. He came to Australia with his parents in 1856 and was educated in Ballarat and at the Hebrew School, Melbourne. In 1863, when his family moved to Dunedin, Cohen was apprenticed to a signwriter, but soon left to study law. He joined the Otago Daily Times in 1865 as a student reporter and, while there, induced the office boys to strike for higher wages. As a result of this, in the following year he transferred to the Evening Star. Except for a few months in 1869, when he worked with Vogel on the Sun, Cohen remained with the Star until his retirement in 1920. For several years he acted as parliamentary reporter and then became, successively, chief reporter and sub-editor. In 1893 he succeeded George Bell as editor. Cohen became known as one of New Zealand's outstanding journalists and developed a flair for attracting men of the calibre of Professor Bedford and Rutherford Waddell to write for his paper. During his years as editor he was ever willing to launch appeals for money to finance important public services and the Star's columns were always accessible to all classes with grievances to air. He was New Zealand president of the Society of Journalists, whom he represented at the World Press Congress in London in 1907, and, with Sir George Fenwick, attended the first Imperial Press Conference in London in 1909.
Besides his normal duties, Cohen played an active part in local affairs, being especially interested in education. He was, successively, a member of the Union Street School Committee, and executive member of the Dunedin and Suburban Schools' Conference, chairman of the Otago Education Board, and a founder of the Free Kindergarten Association. He also assisted in establishing the Dunedin Technical Classes Association. A leading advocate of a free public library for Dunedin, he became secretary of this institution and, later, was a founder of the New Zealand Library Association. Cohen also helped to establish the Prince Edward Convalescent Home at Forbury Corner, Dunedin. From 1888 until 1893 he was a member of Dunedin City Council, where he became the acknowledged leader of the progressive group. He contested the mayoralty unsuccessfully in 1891. Cohen retired from the Evening Star on 10 December 1920. A few months previously he had been summoned to the Legislative Council, where he remained until his death.
In 1879, at Dunedin, Cohen married Sara (1861–1923), daughter of Woolf Isaacs. He died at Devonport, Auckland, on 3 March 1928 leaving one son and two daughters.
Cohen's brother, Albert Elias Cohen (1857–1922) also became well-known as a journalist and was a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. A cousin, Maurice Cohen (1862–1934), was a company manager, served on local bodies, and was conductor of the Orchestral Society for many years.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- The History of the Jews in New Zealand, Goldman, L. M. (1958)
- Otago Daily Times, 5 Mar 1928 (Obit)
- Evening Star (Dunedin), 5 Mar 1928 (Obit)
- Newspapers in New Zealand, Scholefield, G. H. (1958).