The time has come to pass the baton

I can’t believe these are the last words I will write in the pages of The GW Hatchet. I still remember the first ones, in a p. 19 story about the new blue signs on campus buildings. I can’t count the number of words, stories, pages, headaches, tears, triumphs and heartaches that fell in between.

I think it’s safe to say that few people outside the town house at 2140 G St. can fathom the number of hours it took to get these words on this page and into your hands this Monday morning.

photoSince I wrote these words (long after deadline, of course), they have been edited, edited and edited again. Someone placed them on a page on our relatively primitive computers, spruced them up with rule lines and a sig box, and printed the page. Someone else proofed the page, cut it, pasted it to a flat and put it in “Jack’s” cab to our printer in Virginia.

In the meantime, ads were sold, created and proofed, with all the headaches that entails. And when the paper showed up the next morning, someone delivered it to the newsstand where you picked it up. All that twice a week. Quite a feat.

Creating a newspaper from scratch is a next-to-impossible task, and the obstacles along the way often seem insurmountable. Our phone calls aren’t returned, our sources are condescending, we are stonewalled before we even get off our feet. Our readers are constantly critical, finding problems with everything we do from the kind of news we report to the content of our editorials to the photos we use on our sports pages.

Diversity – of interests, backgrounds, ethnicities, expectations – is GW’s claim to fame. As a major campus media outlet, we want to be all things to all people, but we cannot be, so we try to cover what we think the majority of students want to read. It seems we can never please everyone. We try to trust our judgment and hope that somewhere, someone is picking up the paper and saying, “Wow, just what I wanted to read a story on.”

We choose a story that we think our readers want, and we set to work reporting it, but it’s never as easy as it seems. It turns out there’s no story, or a crucial source never calls back, or the problem gets solved before we get a chance to report it. We get caught up in administrative red tape, and we only manage to get as far as the assistant to the assistant of the person we want to talk to. We miss phone calls while we’re in class, our roommates lose our messages, our mothers call while we’re in the middle of a telephone interview.

When we finally get the story, we are faced with the challenge of putting it in context and making it accessible. We pore through back issues to find previous stories on the topic, we explain terms that might be confusing, we answer the question, “Why should I care?” And we do it in the middle of the night, drinking endless cups of hot chocolate and coffee, eating cold pizza and Chinese food.

But we love it. We wake up groggily the morning an issue comes out and pick it up from the newsstand and think, “I did this.” And we are proud of it. We skip classes, break dates, lose friends, make enemies and give up sleep because we love what we’re doing. We love working with other people who care as much as we do, and we love that they understand the struggles we go through and the situations we face. We accomplish things we thought we could never accomplish.

***

Every year, Hatchet seniors attempt to wrap four years of their lives into a thousand or so words, crediting the people and experiences that have made them who they are. Like those before me, I doubt I can really do justice to friends, family and colleagues in a few paragraphs, but I know this is only the beginning of the thank-yous I will say in the next few weeks.

Jared, two years ago, you hired me as an assistant news editor and set into motion the whirlwind that has been my life at The Hatchet. Along the way, we fell in love, and your unrelenting support got me through the toughest of times. You have been the keeper of my dreams, challenging me to go further and be better than I ever thought I could. They say love is friendship set on fire – we are proof that it is.

Dave, when you said yes to this job, I gained an indispensable partner and an incredible friend. Look how far we’ve come – from two scared section editors struggling to figure out how to do this to two confident leaders who are teaching others what we’ve learned. It infuriates me when you say anyone could do your job; I wish you knew how untrue that is.

Do you know how much I have learned from you this year, about writing, editing, management, friendship, life? In so many ways, you are the cornerstone of this paper, in ways no one else could ever be. I never could have imagined how close we’d become, but the way my heart hurts when I think of you leaving, I know we have.

Helder, you make me crazy most of the time, and you know it. But what would the last two years have been like without you? You played tic-tac-toe in ed meeting (even when I asked you not to), left your stuff all over my desk and kept me entertained. But you shared so many of my visions for what this paper could be, and in your own bizarre way, you helped me push for the changes we needed to make. I wouldn’t want to live a life without you in it – with any luck, I won’t have to.

Jody – my roommate, confidante, colleague and friend. I’m waiting for the day you realize how lost this place will be without you – people who think ads just appear on the pages every Monday and Thursday don’t know how much work you do to make that happen. We are like old new friends, which is the nicest surprise anyone could have given me. Assuming you’re not moving into my den, I will look forward to our friendship as non-roommates. It won’t be the same as late-night confidences – it will be better.

Dustin, there is no way I can prepare you for what lies ahead except to say this: It will be the most fun you’ve ever had. It will also be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. But you have proven to me and to everyone else that you are uniquely qualified to take The Hatchet to incredible heights. Do what I did – surround yourself with talented people, cross your fingers and dive in. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

Margaret, your unique talent for visual design has been a hallmark of The Hatchet this year. You understood what I wanted this paper to look like, and you captured it every week in black and white. I have learned more from you that you can imagine, and you have sparked in me a love of newspaper design that I didn’t even know was there. But more than that, you are a true friend, and you will be for a long time to come.

Matt, here’s some advice: Choose your battles. When you’ve done that, go at them with the guts and gumption I’ve seen in you for three years. True, you’ve driven me close to insanity, but you’ve also impressed me with your ideas and enthusiasm. Journalism is lucky to have you – I hope it’s ready.

Ali, don’t be afraid to tread into unfamiliar territory – it’s often where you find the most exciting things. It will be a challenge for you to go beyond what you’ve already accomplished, but I know you will. Thank you for the gossip, laughs and advice. Make sure the guys at Leo’s keep our Junior Mints in stock.

Stacey – nonprofit, time-date-place, its not their, magazine titles in italics. You are such a talented person and such a wonderful friend. All the best at Syracuse; I know you’ll wow them.

Francesca, you are a shining star – I’ve known it from the moment I met you. Promise me one thing: you’ll never let the frustration of this business drive you out of it. You have so much to give.

Kathryn, Shruti and Josh, I hope The Hatchet has given you half as much as you have given it. It is your creativity, dedication and drive that have made this paper great – best of luck wherever life takes you.

Matt, The Hatchet has benefited immeasurably from your photography, well-informed opinions and sense of humor. In two more years, there are no bounds to what you can do.
I’m eager to see where your talent takes you.

Gayle and Theresa, I remember the day you walked in here at CI, bubbly and enthusiastic and eager to get started. I’m happy to say your attitudes were infectious – you’ve made me remember why I came to The Hatchet in the first place. Never lose that enthusiasm – it’s life’s greatest virtue.

Rich, good luck keeping everyone in line in ed meeting. It’s easier said than done.

Steven, Russ, Dave, Zach and Grant, I leave you my pride and joy, and ask that you make it your own. I’ll be watching.

To the business and production staff: Without you, this paper would not exist, and yet you never seem to get enough credit. Suffice it to say, I am endlessly impressed with all of you, and even my sincerest thanks could not be enough.

Steve and Todd, your dedication to student journalism does not go unnoticed. Thanks for putting up with everything we throw at you.

And outside the walls of this town house – Greg, Brian, Kevin and Eli, I’ve loved getting to know you. Poker was great, but the game is, and always will be, blackjack.

Ilene, Beth and Michael, our good times are etched on my memory. Thanks.

Sara, Cara, Jenn, Grant, Larry, Kevin, Howard, Tony and Cyrus, you taught me what friendship is all about. I look forward to sharing your future successes, and I hold tightly to memories of the past.

Dan, I will never understand you, but I love you. You have made me indescribably proud.

Mom and Dad, you have made me what I am. I do everything I do to make you proud, and to thank you for all that you’ve given me. You are my best friends, and my biggest supporters. I love you.

And so, with that, I give up this project that has given me so many memories and so many friends. It has been the best experience of my life, and letting it go breaks my heart. But I will always have the memories, and hopefully, I will always have the friends. That makes leaving a little easier.

-30-

-Becky Neilson will move out to the wilds of the Virginia suburbs to pursue her fortunes. Once established, she will help solve the region’s problems of spatial mismatch and spread the gospel of fabulous swing dancing.

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