Junior Michael Barnett will look to train more writers, churn out more special issues and update The Hatchet’s Web site more frequently as the newspaper’s next editor in chief.
Hatchet editors voted Barnett, currently the senior news editor, to the newspaper’s top spot last week. Pending approval from the newspaper’s Board of Directors, he will assume his new position in early May, taking over for graduating senior Brian Costa.
“Michael has demonstrated himself as a competent, hard-working journalist for the last three years and has certainly played a role in the improvement of the news section,” Costa said.
One of the editor in chief elect’s main goals will be the development of more reporters for a newspaper that the Society of Professional Journalists voted the nation’s best non-daily for 2003-2004.
“I think my first focus in sections like sports, arts and features is to get editors to build up their staffs,” Barnett said. “When I was a freshman I had to write a lot of articles for news, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I was one of the few writers they could count on. That’s not the case in news anymore.”
Former Editor in Chief Mosheh Oinounou disputed Barnett’s claim, saying that in his first year on the paper, he actively sought to set The Hatchet record for articles written by a freshman.
“I guess if you’re looking for a quality in an editor in chief, he wasn’t afraid to do a lot of work,” said Alex Kingsbury, who served as metro editor when Barnett was a freshman.
The editor in chief of the paper functions as an internal leader, Costa said, providing insight to editors; he is also an external leader, maintaining relationships with University officials and student leaders. The editor in chief is also the president of Hatchet Publications, Inc. and works on business issues.
“As (Barnett) continues to develop leadership and management skills, he has the potential to be a very effective editor,” Costa said.
Barnett, a junior, is the paper’s senior news editor, overseeing three editors and more than 40 reporters. As a sophomore, he was the paper’s metro editor after working as a crime reporter his freshman year.
In September 2002, Oinounou, at the time a Hatchet news editor, made Barnett the paper’s crime reporter. Barnett came to a Hatchet open house and told a story about how a security guard at Dream nightclub nearly had him arrested after using a fake ID to buy a drink in his first week in D.C.
“The way he told the story and presented it, I figured he had a future with us,” said Oinounou, now a graduate student and University official. “Given the story was regarding cops and security, I thought this was a person to stick on the (University Police) beat.”
Barnett said he is excited to lead the newspaper because most of its staff is returning next year. “I’m touched, though I know people aren’t necessarily coming back because of me – in fact, some of them are returning in spite of my presence,” he said. “They’re coming back because they, like me, love what they do.”
A national award winner for his spot news coverage, Barnett said the newspaper prides itself on the ability to report breaking stories quickly and completely.
Barnett, a Jericho, N.Y., native, is also a copy editor at Knight Ridder/Tribune’s Washington bureau. An honors student, he is majoring in international affairs and is a former employee of the grocery chain Stop ‘n Shop.
Known among Hatchet staffers for his arrogant attitude and propensity to lose his cool, Barnett was particularly surly during a Friday interview. He had just read a book and reviewed it for a class, only to learn he was supposed to read a different book with the same title.
“He’s a vicious prick, and that’s probably one of his best characteristics,” Kingsbury said.
Oinounou pointed out that Barnett, who used to be known around the office as Screech because of his physical resemblance to the “Saved by the Bell” character, is also “socially awkward” like his television counterpart. Oinounou suggested that Barnett finally sign up for AOL Instant Messenger so that he can relate to other students.