From So. Cal. to D.C., a Four-Year Stop at The Hatchet

I’ve been avoiding this. It’s not because of a lack of material or fear of the unknown or sentimentality. I have four years of mental notes to sift through, and I’m not sure where to begin.

I was hired as a production assistant at The Hatchet when I was 17. My first production night was on my 18th birthday. After that, my Hatchet experience just kind of snow-balled. I never expected to stay here four years, stay up about 200 nights putting our little tabloid together, or have this job take up so much of my life. But then again, I didn’t know what to expect going to college.

I came from Irvine, Calif., having never been in the East, to GW on kind of a whim. It’s been different. Things have happened here, but I never quite settled into an East-Coast groove. The Hatchet kept me busy for four years – probably too busy – but at least I didn’t miss home so much.

I always have been known as The Hatcheteer who does lay-out and design. I’ve given the paper a face-lift during the last few years, but it’s not what I intended to do in college. I came to college to be a journalist. I worked in production to pay the bills and somewhere along the way I became the graphics and Web site guru. I do enjoy all of my work, and it will probably become my career, but I cringe what anyone tells me I’m a great graphic artist. I would rather have been a great journalist. I guess the best things in life happen by accident.

It’s ridiculous to try and sum up four years; a million approaches could work. I could complain about administrators, or perhaps start a conspiracy theory about how some University department is spying on me through my (pick any home appliance). Maybe they’re exercising mind-control tactics through my hairdryer. A number of possibilities could work.

But I’m going to answer the question I’ve been asked a million times during the last four years by friends, family and even strangers: Why did I stay on The Hatchet? I thought to would be appropriate to publish my response once and for all for those concerned readers. The truth is not philosophical or profound, but pretty lame. I’ve always cared about The Hatchet so much, it’s never been a job to me. Staying up late every Sunday and Wednesday never bothered me after 10,000 copies were distributed the next day.

But it wasn’t all gravy. I’ve almost quit about 100 times; I’ve been in fights; I’ve dealt with people who make you want to drop out of society and go live in the wilderness; I’ve made two trips to the emergency room from Exacto-knife mishaps; and I’ve gone home crying more times than I’m going to mention.

It’s all been worth it, I’m certain of that. I’ve gained confidence and direction – I know what I love and what I hate. Difficult experiences give you a better sense of yourself. But I couldn’t have survived without the inspiration of the following people (I’ve organized the list chronologically because I’ve read enough of these things to just let people skip to their name):

Melina – You were my first friend at GW and my roommate my sophomore year. Thank you for all the times we read Speaking Flame, when we caged your plant, we stayed up rearranging the basement and craziness in California. I missed you when you went abroad, and I’m sorry I haven’t been the greatest friend this year. Wherever you go in the world, just know you have a friend in Los Angeles.

Brandon – Thanks for all those Monday nights eating Itza Pizza and watching Stand By Me on Valentine’s Day.

Sheri, Mary-Anne and Rachel – You guys made living in Mitchell fun.

Rassa and Missy – I never could quite keep up the Energizer-Bunny mode nights, but thanks for always reminding me not to work too hard.

The 910 New Hampshire Ave. crew: Kristina, Danielle, Becca, Vanessa and Melina – I know I wasn’t there much, but our trash-strewing house (as referred to by The Foggy Bottom News in 1998) was fun. We survived crackhouse parties, evictions, watching sharks, family meetings, games of boggle, slum-lords and trips to the 7-Eleven. It’s not easy to put six girls together in a former fraternity house that is connected to a 7-Eleven with two bathrooms (one of which is falling through the floor), but I’m glad you guys were my roommates.

Johnny D. and Bruno – Thanks for putting up with me at your house sophomore year and all the times we spent hanging out. I’m glad I wasn’t just Jay’s girlfriend, but your friend as well.

My former fellow Hatcheteers:

Emily and Heather – Thanks for hiring me and teaching me production. Emily – you kicked-ass at the flats and got things done. I don’t think the production office has been as efficient since. Heather – you always had great insight with boys. Thanks for taking me to concerts and my first wine and cheese party.

Claire – The Hatchet hasn’t been as much fun since you left. You always made sure I could get into bars when I was underage, and you made Jay roll film when he was mean to me. I miss our chats and wandering around G Street drunk. I had fun going to parties in Atlanta and driving to Philly for the A-10s. I promise I’ll come to Atlanta again soon.

Tyson – You were the first person ever to tell me that I was good at design. Your encouragement inspired me to be a better artist, which changed my life.

Becky – Thanks for creating a position on the editorial board for me. It gave me a chance to do what I love doing.

Helder – First you were the circulation manager, then my roommate. Thanks for all the Coco-Puffs, and good luck in law school.

Jodi – You made the business office fun and kept me sane. Our ads were always en route and you were my partner in crime fighting against The Man (a.k.a. Program Board). My trips to Leo’s weren’t the same this year.

Tej – You were a great chef, good at math, lost some ads and made some kind maps – a true Renaissance man. Good luck in med school.

Frank – I’m sorry I yelled at you because of ads so many times. You did so much for The Hatchet, and it’s worse off for not having you around this year. We still need to have that dinner.

Todd – You made me cry the first day I worked at The Hatchet, but you kept me from quitting every day since. You took the time to teach me about technology and listen to all my problems. I think I would have starved if it wasn’t for the Todd Peters lunch plan. Thanks.

Dave – The first three days I was managing editor, I didn’t tell anyone because I knew no one wanted me to have the job. You taught me so much about editing, and editing this last issue I still hear beep, beep, beep in my head. I don’t think I could have taken the job without your encouragement. You were right, I grew into it. Thanks for the leap of faith.

Present Hatcheteers:

Dustin – You hired me as managing editor even though everyone advised against it. That meant more to me than you’ll ever know. We got through 63 issues together with never an angry word. You stayed calm when I freaked out, you talked to people when I would have yelled. Your strength held the paper together. I couldn’t have picked a better boss, or a better friend.

Ali – You have been my roomie for the past two years, and I’m glad somewhere along the way we became great friends. You’ve saved my ass so many times and gave me hours of advice. What would we have done without our balcony? I admire your motivation and energy. I’ll miss our talks next year, and I’ll probably never wake up on time again.

Francesca – My only regret at The Hatchet is not becoming friends with you sooner. As a journalist, you balance good reporting with being a good person, a task few can accomplish with such grace. I admire your strength, and I’m amazed you go through all the crap you do without having any vices (food doesn’t count). Thank you for your friendship.

Berger – Nope, I didn’t kill you, but with all of those sharp objects in the production room, it was a close call. Who knew, after four years, we could work so well together on those millenniums. You’re going to do great things in journalism. And, don’t be sad, ou
r paths will probably cross again someday (I’m not that lucky – just kidding, Matt).

Pete – I know I’ve said this before, but I’m sorry I almost fired you. I would have lost the best production assistant I ever had, and more importantly, a close friend. Your Quark and production skills are off the hook. We’ve shared some intense conversations about fonts, and I’m glad I didn’t have to face too many production nights without you. You’ll kick ass in GWeekend next year, do some hot layout.

Russ – You constantly surprise me. I never expected us to be friends, I never expected you would make such a great and dedicated managing editor and no one expected you to be a good guy. If people don’t understand you, it’s probably your fault. But they are the ones who are missing out. Never doubt yourself.

Dave Holt – I may have joined the fan club late, but even when you’re off The Hatchet, I’m keeping an active membership. Keep wearing those cool jackets, cool new shoes and messing up your hair. When you write a book about your career in office, I’ll be first in line to buy it and remind you of the night you passed out on my couch.

Theresa – We shared stories, Professor Laurent’s class, lip balm and hand lotion. You’ve got great news sense, and you’ll take the NY Times by storm this summer.

Grant – You have great energy and ideas behind your photos. Next year the photo department is yours, I can’t wait to see the results.

Matt Besser – You’ve grown so much as a photographer during the last couple of years. Even if you don’t shoot for The Hatchet, keep doing it for yourself. You won’t regret it.

Gayle – This year you rescued the features department from near disaster. You knew exactly what you wanted to do this year, and you accomplished it with enthusiasm and style. Good luck next year.

Steven – I always liked having you stay late even though you would never gossip with me. I’ll always be up for dancing to Will Smith.

Rich – With your energy and leadership, The Hatchet will be great. Don’t forget to drink, party and be merry. Just clap a lot and everything will be OK.

Zach – You always entertained us with Three Amigos impressions. Enjoy next year, sports is all yours.

Melissa and Ashley – Thanks for catching those mistakes when I got sleepy.

Matt, Evan, Neil, Marianne and Greg – After three years in production, I can honestly say I know your pain. If it’s any consolation, The Hatchet has lost hundreds of dollars for ads I’ve messed up. But each one of you has picked up Quark and production 10 times faster than I did. I’m constantly impressed.

Steve – I came to The Hatchet a shy, scared freshman production assistant. The reason I’m leaving The Hatchet with confidence and some employable skills is because of you. You got me the job at Worldweb, but more importantly, you’ve been a mentor and a friend. I can’t thank you enough for all the times you stood up for me. Stay in touch, I know you’re not afraid of e-mail.

And finally, a person who’s in a category all by himself:

Jay – There is no way I could express in a paragraph how much you mean to me. You have been my family for the past two-and-a-half years, and I wouldn’t have made it through college without you. You’re my strength, my best friend and my inspiration. The Hatchet treated you horribly. When editors should have stood up for you, they didn’t. Despite everything, you still listened to my Hatchet problems and supported me. You’re right – love and companionship are the most important things in life. I have both in you. I love you. No matter if we are together or apart, that will never change.

Mom – It had been just you and me for so many years. Leaving you in California was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I know it wasn’t easy for you either, but you let me go to the East Coast and grow up. Thank you. I’ve missed you constantly as a mother, but more as a friend. I’m happy I went, but now I’m ready to come home. I love you.

Terry – I finally know what it’s like to have a dad. Thanks for taking such good care of mom.

Grandma – I’ve missed you during the last four years. Not many grandmas can give good advice about boys and life, but then again, you’re not an average grandma. That’s why I love you.

And if you’re still reading this by now, come by 2140 G St. and you can win a free Hatchet. For future Hatcheteers, I’ll offer this advice: The Hatchet is whatever you make it. Party whenever you can. Support your fellow Hatcheteers and fight like hell to defend them. Encourage people who are younger than you. And have fun. – – 30 –

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