Christine Black, LA’74, and B. Jay Cooper, LA’73
One might think that the home of former political reporters Chris Black and B. Jay Cooper would be a place of opinionated disagreement. She is a Democrat and he is a Republican with ties to powerful politicians. Instead, they gently banter — he calls his wife a “communist from Massachusetts.” She claims her husband is an “accidental Republican.”
They are Northeastern’s own Mary Matalin and James Carville: married media pros at opposite ends of the political spectrum. “We’re the thinking man’s Matalin and Carville,” quipped Cooper.
But despite their differences, they enjoy marital bliss, giving credence to the old adage that opposites attract.
During the 2004 runoff between President George W. Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry, H’00, Black was communications director for Heinz Family Philanthropies — headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry, spouse of the presidential hopeful. Cooper had worked for U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as deputy White House press secretary and for the Republican National Committee as communications director under four chairmen.
“Politics have never been an issue for us at all,” said Black, a longtime political reporter for the Lowell Sun, the Boston Globe, and CNN.
After first meeting at the Northeastern News in the 1970s, the couple married in 2004, following a job interview that reunited them at Cooper’s communications firm, APCO Worldwide. “I didn’t get the job, but I got a husband out of it,” Black said.
Despite their political differences, they share a common thread that was the springboard for their two highly successful careers: Northeastern’s co-op program.
“What co-op did for me was give me an old-fashioned newspaper training, on the scene,” said Black who worked each of her co-ops at the Lowell Sun during her studies as an English major. “I was working side-by-side with real reporters, and real editors were correcting my copy and explaining things to me. In some cases I learned from people who had been doing it for years,” said Black, who interviewed presidential candidate George McGovern during one of her co-ops at the Sun.
“By the time I graduated in ’74, I was a de facto member of the staff,” said Black. “The Sun gave me a full-time job and five months later asked me to go to Washington to be a one-person bureau.”
After Northeastern, she reported on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000, closely covering Ted Kennedy, H’65; Paul Tsongas, H’79; Michael Dukakis, H’84; and John Kerry, H’00.
It was much the same for Cooper, who was an education major on co-op at the Republican-American, in Waterbury, Connecticut, before switching to the newly founded journalism program.
“By the time I took my first journalism class, I’d done a year at a newspaper and was covering real stories,” said Cooper, who was working the police beat and writing obituaries as an aspiring 19-year-old journalist. He also was a co-op reporter for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy.
Cooper’s connections brought him to the United States Department of Commerce in 1981, when, on his first day, President Ronald Reagan was shot. He would move up the ladder to work alongside presidents of the most powerful nation on earth. “It was my real-world experiences on co-op that prepared me for my career in Washington,” he said.
“Real” is the word that pops up over and over when the couple talks about co-op. Aside from the real stories they were covering, the real editors they were working with and the real-world experiences they were getting, Black and Cooper used co-op to make real connections.