More than 200 Hatchet alumni, current staffers and community members gathered in the Marvin Center Saturday night to commemorate the newspaper’s 100th anniversary.
The gala was part of a weekend-long celebration that also featured several panel discussions about the newspaper’s role at GW and a taping of CNN’s “Crossfire.”
GW professor Steve Roberts opened Saturday night’s dinner by praising college newspapers and the role they play on campuses.
“It’s our fraternity, our sorority, our club, our team and our group,” said Roberts, who wrote for Harvard University’s student newspaper in the 1960s. “It’s the place we belong in the university.”
Roberts, who had a 25-year career with The New York Times, urged current Hatchet writers to keep pressure on the GW administration.
“Your mission is to hold the administration accountable and make these guys uncomfortable,” said Roberts in front of an audience that included GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and several vice presidents. “Make these guys uncomfortable every day – but do it in an ethical way.”
The newspaper honored two of its alumni, Tara Connell and Larry Olmstead, for their achievements as career journalists.
“No Hatchet, no career. It was really that simple,” said Olmstead, a former Miami Herald managing editor who served as Hatchet editor in chief from 1977-1978 but never graduated from GW.
Olmstead is currently vice president of staff development and diversity at Knight Ridder. While holding The Hatchet’s top spot, Olmstead said he learned a valuable lesson from an upset reader who suspected the reason he was not identified in a photo was because he was black.
“It’s important to always remember there is a broad audience of people who need to be served in a faithful way,” he said.
Connell, a Hatchet alumnus who graduated in 1971 and a former USA Today managing editor, said her experiences with The Hatchet and professional publications were similar.
“Putting out USA Today was a lot like putting out The Hatchet,” Connell said, referring to the paper’s early days. “Chaos, indecision, exhilaration and making it up as we go along.”
Hatchet alumnus Berl Brechner, who is currently on the newspaper’s Board of Directors, smiled with amusement when he said The Hatchet still covers the same types of issues it did 30 years ago.
“The University is building too much, tuition is too high, the fraternities and sororities are still obnoxious,” he said in an interview following the event. “It’s all the same stuff.”
Brechner also said his time with The Hatchet during the revolutionary 1960s taught him many lessons. He recalled protests in October 1967 that lasted for nearly three days.
“It was one of the first times I had seen the necessity to have a team really pull together and cover all the aspects of a situation,” he said.
From 1946 to 1947, Dorothy Henry wrote for The Hatchet during another revolutionary period. She recalled when the newspaper was temporarily shut down by then-GW President Cloyd Heck Marvin because editors wrote a piece criticizing the school for not letting the black president of Howard University’s medical school attend a performance at Lisner Auditorium.
When The Hatchet resumed publishing, “We had a picture of (Marvin) on the cover and his quote that we were ‘shoddy journalists,'” she said.
Despite spending innumerable hours at the office, Hatchet alumni said working for the paper allowed them to foster valuable relationships.
“Someone said the Hatchet was like a fraternity or a cult,” Helder Gil, who graduated in 1999, said in an interview. “It’s a lifelong friendship with these people you yelled at, screamed at and hated. Very few organizations are able to provide that for one another.”