The Hatchet is the best non-daily college newspaper in the country, according to the Society of Professional Journalists.
SPJ gave top honors to GW's independent student newspaper at its annual conference, which was held in New York from Sept. 9-11. At a Saturday afternoon awards luncheon, SPJ executives lauded The Hatchet for its "professional quality writing" and said it had "just enough sass for a college paper."
"The award is a reflection of the hard work put in by a lot of students, not just in the past year but over the last several years, in building The Hatchet into a nationally respected, independent student newspaper," Hatchet Editor in Chief Brian Costa said. "I think everyone who has worked on this paper over the last several years has a lot to be proud of."
The title is awarded to college newspapers that publish two or three times a week. The prize is one of 45 honors SPJ presents for print, radio, television and online collegiate journalism.
Entries are first judged during 11 regional conferences in April. At the mid-Atlantic conference, which includes Delaware, D.C., Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, The Hatchet was awarded best non-daily in the region. Each regional winner advances to compete in the national competition.
The Hatchet has earned 29 SPJ regional Mark of Excellence awards in the past three years. This year marks the first that The Hatchet has won the best non-daily title in the region or the nation.
Mosheh Oinounou, last year's Editor in Chief of The Hatchet, cited the newspaper's recent utilization of the Internet to provide online editions of the newspaper, improvement of organizational skills and increase in staff as reasons the publication has advanced.
"The Hatchet's caliber has improved dramatically through its direct coverage of breaking news and its effort to improve communication skills by recruiting good writers and teaching them the ropes," Oinounou said. He added that the award "reflects the hard work of the writers and how it has paid off."
Founded in 1904, The Hatchet has been editorially and financially independent from the University since 1993. The paper comes out on Mondays and Thursdays with a circulation of 12,000; its Web site, www.gwhatchet.com, receives more than 75,000 hits per week.
At the SPJ national conference, Oinounou and Senior News Editor Michael Barnett won first place in the Online Spot News category for their coverage of the death of a GW student in April 2003. Their coverage of the story also made them national finalists in the print Spot News category.
"The award really highlights how committed we are to covering breaking news," Barnett said. "Being able to report quickly and completely on a traumatic event is difficult, and our staff is one of the best in the country at doing that."
Costa said Hatchet staffers will continue to work hard to improve the quality of the newspaper.
"I think the paper is only going to get better in the months and years ahead, and that's the focus for the current staff," Costa said. "But it's nice to get this kind of respect from SPJ. I think it builds our reputation in the community and builds GW's reputation as a place where students can come and have access to a strong, independent student press in the nation's capital."
-Will Dempster contributed to this report from New York.