Jess Calefati: True life: I’m a journalist

As I prepare to graduate and to embark on the extremely uncertain chapter of my life otherwise known as adulthood, I do know one thing for sure – without The Hatchet, I would not be a journalist.

Unlike some of my 2140 G colleagues, journalism has not been running through my veins since birth, or if it was, I didn’t realize until I began working for the best independent student newspaper in Foggy Bottom. I did not apply to become a journalism major until after arriving at GW and accumulating a year’s worth of experience at The Hatchet. That fact alone should speak volumes about the strength of this organization.

My life at The Hatchet began at an open house held a few weeks after the start of my freshman year. It all started when my then-editor Caitlin Carroll called to offer me a “job” as the paper’s Greek beat reporter. The thought of having a titled position 48 hours into my journalism career was thrilling and of course I accepted the offer. Four years later, I feel lucky to have stumbled upon this paper and into my calling as a journalist.

The Greek-letter life beat was an experience and a half. I wrote about everything from off-campus fraternities banned from kickball tournaments to sororities getting sanctioned for hazing their pledges. Oh, permanent markers and dog food . I courted sources and I also made enemies. I’m certain there are at least a few GW fraternity and sorority members who cringe when they hear my name. Ultimately, the Greek beat allowed me to get my feet wet with easy story assignments, and also to step up to the plate for more challenging articles.

If freshman year marked my evolution as a writer, I consider sophomore year the preparation I needed to become an editor. I can thank Brandon Butler and Ryan Holeywell for that. You two saw talent in me and pushed me to take on more responsibility as a senior staff writer. Butler, do you remember visiting me at the concierge desk going over my “how to become editor in chief” strategic plan? Though I chose not to run for the paper’s top spot, looking back, I doubt I would have done as excellent a job as Jake Sherman has done in that role this past year.

Junior year at The Hatchet was tough for me. Nearly all of my friends went abroad and to say my new responsibilities as a campus news editor were stressful is an understatement. Instead of shying away from this added responsibility, I took on my editor position full speed ahead. I felt strongly that I needed to return the favor of learning how to write by making my writers the best they could be. Amanda, Ian, Hadas, Jenn, Marisa, I take great pride in leaving The Hatchet knowing you are some of the paper’s finest writers and that I helped you achieve this status.

Today is one of my last few days on staff at The Hatchet – THREE more days after today I’ll be Hatchet responsibility-free, and what a whirlwind of emotion that brings. Working for this organization has been my lifestyle for the last four years. When I tell my friends outside the paper that I’m “Hatchet-ing” they all know exactly what that means. My career at the paper has been exhausting, stressful and unforgettable. Right now I’m not sure whether to cry or celebrate the fact that it’s all over.

When I started working for The Hatchet freshman year, I wanted so badly for my sense of belonging to rival the bond my roommate had with her sorority. I used to joke that her sorority T-shirts, cups, pens, key chains and photos made it look like Delta Gamma had thrown up all over our floor. I guess I could have strewn my reporter notebooks, pens and digital voice recorder across our Lafayette dorm room, but at that time The Hatchet wasn’t family and my effort to portray it as such would have been false.

Fast forward four years and I can happily say I’m indebted to the paper both for the journalistic skills I’ve cultivated and the friendships I will always keep close to my heart. This year’s Hatchet staff HAS been like a family for me. Kyle and I are co-moms, Jake is the dad, I think Roper’s the bastard child, or something like that, and I’ve absolutely loved every minute of it. I know the staff often chides me for how little time I spend in the office during the day, but my time away makes me look forward to seeing all of you at production every Wednesday and Sunday night. Yes, I looked forward to prodo.

Over the past two years I’ve visited a handful of journalism classes to recruit new writers for the paper. I told each group of fledgling reporters that The Hatchet taught me how to write and that they’d be kidding themselves to think they’d go anywhere as a professional journalist without dedicating time to and learning from GW’s student newspaper. I would not have gotten internships at prominent publications and my dream to work for The Post would not still be alive had this advice not been sound. Work for The Hatchet. What I put in I’ve gotten back ten-fold in experience, knowledge and of course, friendship.

And now for the thanks you all deserve:

Jake – We work oddly well together. You yell, I yell back and somehow we put out a paper twice a week. I may not have thanked you along the way, but I have learned a lot from you this year. I know I’ll see your name in The Times or The Post one day, and I can only hope my name is there beside yours.

News – I could not have asked for a more dedicated, talented staff. Roper, you’ve kept me honest. Ramonas, your kindness has not gone unnoticed. Elise, I could always count on you to make sense of a confusing academic story. Nat, you were always, always on call when I needed you. Alexa, hiring you was one of the best decisions I made as SNE.

Prodo – Kyle, I don’t know where I would be without you. You keep me sane on Wednesday and Sunday nights. Tim, you drive me crazy! on Wednesday and Sunday nights, but you’re always there to help me with whatever I need, prodo night or middle-of-the-night.

Photo – Ben, I venture to say our relationship this year was much more positive and much less combative than last year. I’ll miss you, but I guess I’ll see you at Menlo? Nick, Alex and Ryder, the three of you are extremely talented photogs and I doubt anyone would pick up our paper without the strong art you three create for our front pages.

Web – Nacin, there is no one else in this world I can count on to be awake at 4 a.m. when I’m up at 4 a.m. except for maybe Tim or Ceasar. Viktors, I love your love of Lyndon

Ceasar – Last spring you pushed me to dedicate myself to this job 100 percent and I hope my work this past year has made you proud.

News ’08-’09 – You beat out some stiff competition to become part of next year’s staff and I wish you the best of luck. Scire, advising was truly a masterpiece.

Amy, Karly and Mel – I would not have made it through my time at The Hatchet without you ladies. You are the best friends I came to GW hoping to find.

Devin – You support me unconditionally on my good and bad days. I love you so much.

Mom, Dad and Chris – Thank you a million times over for all your love and support. Did you ever think four years ago I’d be graduating a journalist? I certainly didn’t.

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Jessica Calefati has been a senior news editor, campus news editor, senior staff writer and a Greek beat reporter for The Hatchet. She began writing for The Hatchet in September 2004.

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