Except for when we wear our logo-sweatshirts or are walking into or out of 2140 G St., Hatchet employees are basically incognito.
No one really knows who we are or why we do what we do. Most students just do the crossword puzzle, anyway, so there is no point in wondering about the inner-workings of the student newspaper. There are, however, those few students who do venture a guess as to the how’s and why’s of The Hatchet. It’s these students – the more curious Colonials – who have provided me with some of my most secretly fun moments at GW.
When people begin to think aloud about the motivations or the functioning of The Hatchet, my ears start to tingle. Since most of the people I interact with wouldn’t know that I work here, it’s at these moments when I’m privy to some fairly gross mischaracterizations of The Hatchet: “The Hatchet misquotes everyone! Don’t ever talk to them … The Hatchet is biased against Students for the Advancement of Modern Ballet Dance in Urban Areas because they didn’t cover our event … I’ve given up on reading The Hatchet, nothing they ever print is right … Did you see that column? The opinions editor must be an idiot…” It goes on and on.
Some of my favorites occurred when I was just training for my role as opinions editor, about two years ago. Will Dempster, my editor at the time, was insistent on uniting all warring peoples of the earth, so he decided that the opinions section could be a good place for debates about the Arab-Israeli conflict. What a bad idea – all the mini-Thomas Friedmans of GW jumped into action, throwing their two cents into the discussion. In just a couple of weeks, I heard people accuse The Hatchet, almost simultaneously, of hating Palestinians, hating Jews and hating just about everyone.
The truth is The Hatchet doesn’t have any feelings. It has never hated anyone in its 100-plus year history. It’s also never liked anyone, for that matter. For all the complaints, however, The Hatchet really is the only comprehensive student voice on campus. It’s the most consistent vehicle for pressuring the administration for policy changes or for highlighting the positives at GW that need to continue and the negatives that are in desperate need of attention.
Last year, I wrote a column about the intrusive health and safety inspections the University implemented. One of the administrators integral to that decision asked if I would meet with her to discuss my column. While we did discuss the intricacies of that policy, the most striking thing for me about our conversation was when she told me that her department tried to seek student input from the Student Association but was rebuffed. The administration only learned about students’ true feelings about this policy after The Hatchet had a chance to report and editorialize on it. She lamented the fact that there was no one official place where students and administrators could effectively interface to discover common ground. For her and almost everyone else on campus, though, The Hatchet is the closest thing we have.
I assume that is why GW students, faculty and staff like to talk about The Hatchet as if it is some monolithic institution with a sometimes-malicious agenda. I wish they could all look around our dirty office with its often barely functional computers. I wonder how amazed people would be to know that The Hatchet is produced twice a week in that office by a very small, very committed group of students – many of whom had no experience in journalism prior to starting here.
These students, my coworkers, colleagues and friends, are the best part of The Hatchet. For the better part of my time here, it seemed like we were all just kind of stumbling along together. Somehow, the paper was printed, even in light of some major errors or foul-ups on our part (and, while I was working in production, mostly on my part). We would get mad at each other, send out angry e-mails or deride someone during a staff meeting. Then, someone would break a huge story, get a leaked memo or write an editorial that attracted the attention – both laudatory and negative – of some top administrators. That’s when we would all stop criticizing each other, take 10 minutes to bask in the glory of truly getting it right and then get back to work. I couldn’t have asked for better 10-minute breaks.
Most seniors who stick around at The Hatchet long enough spend a good portion of their final 30 inches individually thanking people through their time at The Hatchet. I would do the same, but 30 inches isn’t enough space to sufficiently thank my peers, mentors, friends, family and especially my parents. Some of you will think I’m taking the easy way out by not individually thanking people and all of you will deem my next sentence too clich?, but it’s all true. The Hatchet, and everyone I ever worked with there, changed my life.
This newspaper made me a more engaged and informed citizen of Foggy Bottom – knowledgeable and active in the intricacies of campus life and politics. It also has empowered me and given me the greatest level of responsibility I have yet known in my short life. This was due to an opportunity on campus unique to The Hatchet – writing the staff editorial for almost every issue.
While every aspect of the newspaper is integral to its success, I felt a great deal of personal pressure in writing our staff editorials for more than a year. In some ways, it should be easier to produce the only part of the newspaper without a byline or a credit, since I could easily get away with avoiding the blame for my mistakes. In truth, however, every word becomes more difficult to write because readers – especially the administration, with whom we were most often in a dialogue to promote change – attach greater significance to this piece, as it is the official position of The Hatchet. This is where The Hatchet does become more than just a random assemblage of students, states its position and waits for the inevitable counter-attack.
The Hatchet isn’t always perfect. Certainly, any avid reader of page two will know that our list of corrections can sometimes reach massive proportions. Still, we do our best to get everything right and to correct ourselves when we mess up. Personally, I know that I didn’t always work to my full potential while I was here, but the pressures of being a real student often got in the way of being a really great student journalist. Even so, I leave with few, if any, regrets. I will always remain proud of my time at The Hatchet, and I will always remain thankful for the incredible people who started this journey with me four years ago, those who have left since and those who I have met along the way.
I know I don’t say it enough (or ever) to my coworkers, but you all are truly talented people who, both through good times and bad, through intelligent discourse and sometimes through outright verbal abuse (going in both directions, of course), helped make me a better person. Thank you.
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