30 Piece: leaving it all behind

Lauren Silva and I usually finish with The Hatchet between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Sometimes later if, say, the server crashes, the computer freezes, the internet connection fails or plain old late news breaks, requiring the undivided attention of our editor in chief.

Either way, the first comment we usually pass between each other as we step away from the little red townhouse reflects on how wonderful it is to be leaving so early. We’re easily a full hour ahead of news, whose editors have decided that your knowledge of Phil Robinson and the SA is more important than their own few extra hours of sleep.

The second comment usually is something to the effect of how funny it is that these neatly trimmed and presentable pages we’ve just produced say nothing to the kind of chaos editors go through just to deliver the news. It’s a little deceiving.

It reminds me of something Howard Deneroff, the executive producer for CBS Radio Sports, told me when I worked for him last summer. I was inside this little studio in the enormous CBS building that occupies nearly all of West 57th Street between 10th and 11th avenue in Manhattan. Deneroff was in Canton, Ohio, racing around because it was three minutes before kick-off of the pro football Hall of Fame game and Deneroff still hadn’t established a working two-way line of communication between himself and the on-air talent, Howard David and Boomer Esiason.

They could hear his cues, but he couldn’t hear theirs. It was a complete mess. To make a long story short, Deneroff fixed the problem just before kick-off and told me how thrilling it was knowing that the broadcast went off just fine, and not one of the couple million listeners had any idea what the hell took place behind the scenes.

I’ve already hinted at the kinds of trouble The Hatchet encounters before every issue. I’ll save you the rest. Just know there’s a lot of extremely dedicated people working through all sorts of technical glitches, and not once have they failed to deliver the news. That’s pretty amazing. The only indication that we we’ve been through war is maybe a couple typos, and do those really take away from the quality of journalism you find yourself reading each morning? Probably not.

So, to all my colleagues at The Hatchet, this column is dedicated to you and the work you’ve poured into this thing with so little thanks in return. Thank you for stuffing the equivalent of one student’s entire work week into the hours of a single day. And to be more clear, thanks for doing that twice a week, making this what is essentially the strongest student organization and most omnipresent force on campus.

Russ Rizzo, our tyrannical (in the good way) editor in chief, unequivocally embodies the mission of this newspaper. He has the chutzpah to order a change in the sports layout at midnight because the picture of Jaason Smith doesn’t match the article about Karl Hobbs. Russ did this countless times, and for each one he was absolutely right, his mission being to serve the reader a newspaper of outstanding quality. He demanded we rise to the level of quality he expects.

I remember once last year I e-mailed Russ about something and accidentally made the mistake of separating The Hatchet from other “real newspapers.” Within minutes Russ returned with a stinging reply: “Hey we ARE a professional newspaper.” Damn straight. Russ set the tone around here. On Sept. 9 just as we were getting ready to print the final pages of the Fall Sports Preview, our Springfield server crashed. His performance reminded me what Hamlet said of handling a crisis situation: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It was the only time this semester when not publishing became a real possibility. But instead of folding under the pressure, Russ made the suggestion that we relax, dig in for a long night, and all would be fine.

I’m not kidding about this next remark. I’ve seen The Hatchet’s senior news editor Kate Stepan literally fall asleep editing a story, which I haven’t included to support Tim Foden’s claim that we’re a sleeper newspaper. For every hour Kate has logged in that chair near the stereo, that’s one less hour tallied in the sleep column. Hopefully next year, as editor in chief, Kate will trade in some time spent with the keyboard for some time spent with the guitar.

Lauren Silva, who will direct next year’s sports section, has been the backbone of the sports section since she joined in September. She’s breathes life into our department and has the determination to go beyond reporting who won or lost. It starts with a memorable feature on Sir Valiant Brown last year and extends to last month’s in-depth story on how program cuts at Massachusetts could impact GW. She’ll be joined by Brian Costa a freshman who cared little for my unfounded editing decisions. By challenging me, Brian made his own articles better. Thanks to the sports writers: Patty Thornton, Stephen Bernard, Lauren Kornreich, Heather Struck, Jeff Nelson and Ben Rosenberg.

Thanks to Michael Itti and Grant Wernick, the photo editors, who began a new tradition here at The Hatchet. Instead of declaring far away athletic matches outside the ambit of their required duties, they have repeatedly secured photos from editors at distant newspapers, avoiding that tired practice of accompanying stories with unused and dated photos.

Thanks to Jason Steinhardt, my friend since freshman year, who has mastered the art of motivating an editor while demanding his story at the same time. Thanks to the editorial production crew of Shannon Derby, Liz Bartolomeo and Will Loker, without whom there would be no newspaper. These three somehow manage to block out the traffic and anxiety coming at them from all angles in production.

A couple personal dedications: to my sister, who knows why; to my parents who know why; to my favorite guitars – the cherry-red JS-100 model, her floating low-profile locking tremolo, her basswood body with ceramic magnet humbucker pickups; to my Alvarez acoustic, her semi-hollow wide-body, her understated green abalone inlay and her carefully seasoned spruce top, both of whose string are very attached. Finally, to my best friend Sasha, to whom everything else I dedicate. We still on for tonight?

–Sean Lee has been a Hatchet editor since fall 2000.

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