Hatchet celebrates 100 years

Monday’s edition of The Hatchet begins the publication’s year-long celebration of its 100th year as GW’s student newspaper. The Hatchet staff and alumni, with the help of University archivist G. David Anderson, have been working throughout the year to plan for the newspaper’s centennial celebration. An on-campus historical display, a book about The Hatchet and a gala event in the spring are some of the activities that will take place next year.

The Hatchet will also celebrate its tenth year as an independent newspaper, which means the publication stopped receiving funding from the University at the start of its 90th year in 1993. Currently, the publication solely relies on advertising for funding.

“An independent paper creates more loyalty among students, alumni and the administration,” said Hatchet General Manager Steven Morse, who has overseen the newspaper for 17 years. “It also avoids conflicts of interest in reporting on itself as an institution, and has more meaning for the students because they become the owners.”

Morse also called The Hatchet the “legitimate voice of the students.”

Newspaper staffers said they are planning a Hatchet display in the Media and Public Affairs Building, set to open during Colonials Weekend in October.

“The display will be chronological but broken up into different areas such as athletics, campus trends and social life,” said Hatchet Special Projects Editor Liz Bartolomeo.

Plans are also in the works for a gala celebration and dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Marvin Center in March 2004.

Hatchet alumna Francesca Di Meglio will be putting together a publication about The Hatchet, including “remembrances from alumni, interesting things from the office and interesting stories we covered,” said Becky Sher, Hatchet editor in chief during the 1998-1999 school year.

While the newspaper has seen several changes over the past century, those involved with its production said they anticipate the 2003-2004 school year to be one of The Hatchet’s best years. The newspaper received a new masthead Monday and will showcase a history series recounting 100 years of covering GW news.

“As someone who thinks history’s important, (the display and series) will be a great way for students to learn about the history of their school,” said Hatchet Editor in Chief Mosheh Oinounou.

Oinounou also said he wants to bring a speaker series with professional journalists to campus and have another CNN-style event. The Hatchet and Program Board co-sponsored the first Crossfire event – which featured Student Association presidential candidates and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg – earlier this semester.

The Hatchet was conceived as the “Weekly Columbian” in 1902, when GW was still called Columbian University. When the University changed its name to The George Washington University two years later, the newspaper became The University Hatchet.

The publication released its first issue as The Hatchet on October 5, 1904.

“(Throughout its existence), The Hatchet has covered both the University and Washington and has reflected different trends,” Anderson wrote in an article titled, “Hatcheting the University Newspaper.”

The Hatchet’s content in its early days was different from what it is today, focusing mainly on activities around campus, especially athletics and Greek-letter life. The newspaper currently has five sections: arts, features, news, opinions and sports. The news section – broken into the metro, university and student life sections – covers everything from campus crime to policy changes and student trends.

Oinounou said the newspaper has attempted to cover larger issues during his three years working at The Hatchet, in addition to challenging University policy in editorial pieces.

“As the students’ voice, I think it is one of our duties to cover, analyze and question administrative decisions on behalf of the student body,” he said.

Although current Hatchet editors said they print articles that portray the University’s policies and procedures accurately, past editors said they did not want to “shock” people by possibly insulting them and just wanted to inform students of what was happening on campus.

“We enjoyed our work at the newspaper too much to print a story that would offend anyone,” said Francis W. Brown, an editor at The Hatchet in 1927, in a history paper written by a past Hatchet editor.

Staffers said while The Hatchet’s relations with the University administration have been relatively calm, the newspaper had several disputes with former GW President Cloyd Heck Marvin over the editorial board’s position on segregation and editor selections in the 1940s.

“President Marvin was notorious for his actions against the newspaper until local alumni had to tell him to back down,” Morse said.

But he added that, as an independent newspaper, The Hatchet has a stronger relationship with the University and its students.

Hatchet alumni said they are proud to have contributed to the newspaper over the years and are looking forward to this year’s celebrations.

“I met my husband and my best friends (working for The Hatchet),” Sher said. “My GW experience wouldn’t have been the same without it. A lot of other people feel that way, too, which is why we’re doing this.”

Sher married Jared Sher, who served as Hatchet editor in chief during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 school years.

Current staffers said they anticipate a bright future for the newspaper.

“I think we’re going to keep growing and be around for another hundred years,” Bartolomeo said. “As long as GW is here, we’ll be here.”
-Julie Gordon contributed to this report.

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