New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger once described making the transition from the newsroom to an executive editorial position as “coming down from the hills to shoot the wounded.” While my tenure as editor of the Hatchet is coming to an end, I like to think the only battles I’ve fought, as a reporter or editor, have been for GW students.
We learned some important journalistic lessons this year, as is the intended goal of the student press. To some journalism professors’ disbelief, professional questions of ethics, responsibility and method arise again and again in a college newsroom; one of the reasons we put in long hours and late nights is to continually improve our craft.
In my biased opinion, we came out on the right side of many of those tough decisions and did some hard-nose reporting to boot. Students may have noticed more continuity and consistency in coverage this year, as a revamped news department attempted to keep on top of significant issues facing the GW community. A bigger, edgier arts section on Thursdays provided alternative topics from pornography to, well, more sex and drugs. A thorough and diligent sports department provided, for the first time, full coverage of smaller varsity sports and club sports.
Another goal of The Hatchet this year was to stay in front of the news, providing proactive, rather than reactive, coverage of issues like the possible academic overhaul and the University budget. We explained complicated matters like D.C. zoning regulations and how they related to students’ lives on and off campus. When students wonder about the causes behind administrators’ decision, like limiting study abroad or reworking on-campus housing, hopefully by now they know to turn to The Hatchet for a full analysis of the roots of policy changes.
But the most important asset to The Hatchet’s coverage this year was a mutual respect between the paper and those it covered. As stories began to build the newspaper’s credibility through solid reporting and fair and balanced writing, the GW administration visibly sat up and took notice and voila – returned phone calls. As editorials, critical of the University as they may have been, began to take a more informed and insightful tone, less whining was heard in response. Students began submitting well educated and thoughtful letters, the Student Association reacted to the issues addressed in the newspaper and administrators also responded to some policy decisions we pointed out were not in the best interest of students.
It could not have been done without calls to administrators’ homes or cell phones. It could not have been done without a relatively cooperative SA executive. I would like to personally thank anyone who went the extra mile to return a Hatchet reporter’s call or e-mail when vital information was needed on deadline.
Last semester, one senior administrative official gave The Hatchet the best compliment a newspaper can receive – that our coverage is “hard hitting, without hitting below the belt.” I like to think this was true in most respects and that this year has set the tone for years to come – a hardworking staff that cares about the paper and its readers, a wide scope of coverage and a professional relationship with those we cover.
-The writer, a senior majoring in journalism, is Hatchet editor-in-chief.