I was running through the chaotic streets of Washington the morning of September 11 with a notepad and pen in tow and a Hatchet photographer beside me, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable. I still remember every interview I conducted that day – including one with famed Washington correspondent Helen Thomas, who was yelling at Secret Service officers to let her through police lines. While I had already written dozens of stories for The Hatchet, covering Fall Fest or the Student Association didn’t quite have the bite of a national crisis. I realized that day that I truly loved reporting, asking questions and communicating information to the public, and that The Hatchet would be the best way to do it during my time at GW.
Hundreds of stories and dozens of media passes later, it is difficult to contemplate life at GW without The Hatchet. I will be continuing on as a graduate student in the Elliott School next year but will still have the immediate urge to run out of class when I hear a siren and call in to the office when I see a story on the street. I will be eating healthier and doing more school work, but reporting and editing for The Hatchet is second nature for a few of us who spend a significant part of our college lives here; it runs through our veins and crosses our minds every day. You walk around campus and think about everything you see and everyone you talk to as a possible story, and in the process your cell phone bill hits ridiculous amounts, you skip classes and your friends begin to hate you for having to skip meals and nights out for Hatchet duties. But it’s worth it.
When I think about my time at GW, The Hatchet stands out as one of the constants in a college experience marked by a consistent state of flux. Classes, roommates, friends and interests all change, but the townhouse at 2140 G St. has been a permanent feature during my time as a student. From President Bush’s inauguration to September 11 and anthrax, to this semester’s tragedies, I have been able to watch all the events that defined my time at GW, reporting and editing for The Hatchet. It has been an experience that has left an indelible impact on me during my undergraduate days at GW. I devoted myself to this place to the disgruntlement of professors and my parents but feel I learned more life lessons during my thousands of hours at The Hatchet than I took away from any class. Working at The Hatchet has also forced me to choose between being friends with everyone and conveying truth, important news and a wide range of opinions to the campus community. I know certain students and administrators are not happy with decisions we made, but I hope that I provided you sufficient rationale for them.
I have learned a lot about myself during the past four years – my ability to handle pressure, my pet peeves, my strengths and my faults. While the old adage goes that everything one needs to know they learned in kindergarten, I would argue that The Hatchet also has taught me a few important lessons.
Believe in yourself and stick to your guns when you know you are right but defer to other experts when you don’t know what you are talking about.
Let people know you appreciate their work every chance you have.
Make decisions you will be proud of.
People can surprise you when you give them extra responsibility.
I also concur with the professional journalists who complain that they are never prepared for the jump from reporting to managing and editing. I definitely made my mistakes but have learned from my errors and wouldn’t give up editing this newspaper for anything else. Serving as The Hatchet editor in chief in our 100th year of publication and a year we were named the best non-daily in the region by the Society of Professional Journalists has been an honor and a privilege I will never forget.
And despite our achievements in this historic year, it has been an extremely tough school year, as the entire campus and the close-knit staff experienced an unprecedented amount of untimely loss. The duty of covering six student deaths in the last year has been emotionally trying for a staff that does feel campus pain. The suicide of Jenny Dierdorff, our production manager, dealt a major blow to the staff, and all the credit for our continued publication two days after her death and a successful spring semester goes to their devotion and dedication to The Hatchet and sense of responsibility to the GW community.
I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t thank my family and close friends for their invaluable help during the past four years. I am sorry I don’t call home or visit enough, but I can’t imagine a better support network. Abba, Ema – you guys are there when I need you with wisdom and logical advice, and GW wouldn’t have been possible without you. Yoni, you have been there when I needed you and when I did not need you, but I am proud to have had you join me at GW. But please spend more time on your school work and less on the B.S. You are a talented kid, and you should let people see it come through once in a while.
And even though I was highly critical of Greek-letter life during my first two and a half years at GW, I can’t imagine my experience here without helping start a now-thriving Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter. Jonah, Ben, Dani – thank you for convincing me to help start the group; the brothers, the Jewish community and the entire campus are better for it. Jonah, the last four years have been quite a journey, and your counsel has been invaluable. You are on your way to lead the American Jewish community, but you missed your calling as a journalist.
So now begins the messages to the past and current. I will try to hit all of you, but know that every member of the team this year – editors, production, web, business and writing staff – played an incalculable role in our success.
To the past editors – Rich, Russ, Steiny and Kate, I have a deep sense of gratitude for your patience, trust and lessons for an overzealous kid who needed some direction and help with his story leads.
Snow – Juggling our working relationship and our friendship the past two years has been challenging, but I look forward to spending Wednesday nights next year drinking Guinness free of Hatchet-related stress. And without late-night GWorld access, know that you may have to walk girls all the way back to your place.
Julie – The last two years would have been impossible without you. Your devotion and pride for the newspaper is unmatched. How will I wake up early on Monday and Thursday mornings if I don’t get a call from you critiquing the Web site or minor headline changes?
Nelson – Your critical eye and wit were a great addition.
Barnett and Baum – Your dedication, work ethic and skills are top notch, but know that compassion and empathy are vital traits in your work and in life.
Newsies – Don’t let Barnett get out of control. If he does, give me a call next year.
Stoneman and the production crew – You are all champs and quickly became invaluable parts of the system. Cheers.
Janice – You came through in the clutch. Never doubt yourself.
Riezman – You won’t regret coming back for the last year, dog.
Liz Bart – You were the go-to person for whatever we needed. A belated thank you.
Dempster – You are enroute to be the next Thomas Friedman. Just take extra time to develop your thoughts and don’t let your liberal idealism hide reality.
Costa – Being EIC will make for a stressful year, but be patient, take time for yourself and defer to your experts when needed, and The Hatchet will go on to greater and greater things. And try to replace the office couches.
Although I have two more years ahead of me at GW, the experience could never match my time at The Hatchet. But the newspaper is in good hands and will carry the traditions of our first hundred years into the paper’s next century.
This article appeared in the April 29, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.