I went to camp.
With 30 column inches left in my collegiate journalism career, that would seem like a trivial fact to mention. But each summer, I packed a trunk and drove north from my home to Madison, Conn., to live in a bunk with eight guys. We had goofy nicknames and used candy as currency. From the age of 9 to 18, I had a life in a dirty, ant-infested bunk for three months a year. Only a few knew what really went on. My parents footed the bill but did not know what I did there. We always thought nothing would compare. For some reason, I haven’t thought much about it in years.
When trying to draw comparisons to the 1,330 days I have spent devoted to The GW Hatchet, my mind drifted back to camp. Like then, relationships were so unique. Unlike real family, we couldn’t close the door to our bedrooms and hide our emotions in a pillow. We saw each other at the absolute worst.
I have struggled to describe my experience at The Hatchet to those not involved. Something as simplistic as summer camp serves as a near-perfect encapsulation of my time at 2140 G St. I have met people I will never forget and could not hide anything from. Hatcheteers have seen me on horrid, dizzy Sunday mornings. They have seen me elated at a scoop or downtrodden because we missed a story. My parents, again, footed the bill for an experience that has left an indelible impact on me as a person.
So when thinking about this year finally winding down and having to pack up four years of press credentials, notebooks and memories, I shed a quick tear. It was the tear similar to those I produced when reading these farewell columns in years past from people like Michael Barnett and Will Dempster – whom I will group in one category much to their dismay. When I look back at your departing words, I realize my experience may rival yours. I look at Alan Siegel’s and realize, thanks to him, I was able to turn an interest into a career choice. I look at Kyle Stoneman’s farewell and appreciate the sheer diversity of talent that has permeated the G Street townhouse.
So let me reiterate: I once – just once and really quickly – shed a tear when thinking about leaving The Hatchet. And it will forever be on the Internet, along side all the drug-dealing athletes, bottle-smashing senators, lying hot dog vendors and abusive softball coaches. And let’s make a deal: I will never ask to have this article removed, so do us the same courtesy.
I am very proud of what we have accomplished and those who have spent their time working hard for the only newspaper at GW. We don’t make stories up. As my friend Kyle Spector once said, we don’t hate or particularly like anyone. What we do is largely thankless. We work our asses off to wake up to a slew of critical e-mails.
Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to be one of those people constantly criticized. For four years, I have been Jake from The Hatchet. Even my closest friends knew whatever they’d tell me would end up in the paper. And at some point, it was OK. My tattered reporter’s notebook with my credentials wrapped around became comfortable in my backpack. I grew accustomed to Joe at GW Deli – who taught me as much as some professors – telling everyone who came in that I ran The Hatchet.
As I realized on my first four drafts of this column, I could spend 30 inches solely talking about my experiences reporting for The Hatchet. I’ve had datelines in 13 states, three time zones and countless gyms across the country. Hatchet Publications Inc., thanks to Barnett, has gracefully footed the bill. I befriended newspaper and magazine writers I idolize and covered coaches I grew quickly to hate. But what’s more important is to leave something behind as those before me did. And maybe my dedication to this paper and my former superiors will help inspire those that come after me.
My message to the newbies: you aren’t good. And although I was not here to see them, the seven Pulitzer Prize winners were not great while toiling at The Hatchet. Put your nose to the grindstone and you will become great. You don’t know many of those who are listed below but search their names on The Hatchet’s Web site. You will learn a lot.
Barnett – If you didn’t make me come in at 10 a.m. every Saturday my sophomore year, I would have never been able to write. I owe you everything. I hope I made you proud. ILYMSB.
Dempster – I skipped so many classes freshman year to hang out with you and learned a hell of a lot. I wish some people on the paper today could hear what you have to say. They’d be much better for it.
Costa – Did I back up my swagger?
Siegel – The best damn writer to graduate from this paper. You took a chance on a kid who wore green pants and his emotions on his sleeves. Thank you for letting me butcher the article when GW beat Michigan State and Maryland. That was the start of this all.
Alberg, Joanna and Byers – What a goof troop. More people rely on you guys than you know. But no one will be like me.
Sam – You took an idea and made it into a quasi-masterpiece. On top of that, you listened to me. About anything and everything. You are one of the few, and for that, I love you. Poquito.
Kyle – I separated you from Sam. I never really understood why you existed until this year. And then I realized that you mean more to The Hatchet and to me than many people do. But not that many people.
Ben – Why do you wear wristbands while performing unathletic duties? That’s something I’ll never really fully grasp. Keep taking photos. It’s not glamorous but you are good at it.
Nick, Ryder and Ellis – Somehow, all photo people turn out crazy. But you haven’t and you are talented, and for that you deserve a raise.
Polmer – The only guy who likes good music – and to drink.
Tim is everything. That’s all I can say.
Ramonas, Kigner, Millinger and Nat – When I told you I needed a story by tomorrow, you did it. But Alexa: if you don’t invite me to your parties, I will hate you more.
Jess Calefati – You took the brunt of much of my criticism and bad moods and never blinked. Without you, this year would’ve been hell.
Ceasar – You’ve laid the groundwork for the future of The Hatchet, which will etch your place in the history of the paper. Even though I didn’t take much of your advice, I still valued it tremendously. And the Dems still won’t win in 2008.
Karl Hobbs – You don’t work at The Hatchet but never had a problem telling those who did what to do. Your demeanor has helped me become a better journalist.
Howie – You have taken this paper to one level. You will now take it to another.
Roper – Don’t take shit from anyone. Read up – and down. Until you think you’ve read enough – and then read more. Be confident. You are a much better man than I am, and I expect you to show everyone that.
To my friends who wanted their name in here: Daniel S. Klein (happy?), Phil, Jason, Chad, Lee, Ian, Josh and Zack. Thanks for understanding – most times.
To my parents – Thanks for paying nearly a quarter-million dollars for me to chase athletes around the country, develop horrible sleeping habits, gain 20 pounds and afford me the chance to meet the some of the most interesting people in the nation’s capital. I could have never done this without you guys. Corey and Kate – the best readers and siblings a guy can have.
I, somewhat famously, told a room full of people in Thurston freshman year that whatever we were doing was much better than sleepaway camp. I think it was poker. But I soon after found something even better than camp. It was down the block at 2140 G.
For four years, I woke up early for flights, went to sleep late after editing and partied with co-workers after winning awards. Through it all, I was chided for my e-mail signature. It always identified me as what I was before anything else: a reporter, staff writer, sports editor, and editor in chief of the second-oldest newspaper in the District of Columbia and one of the most decorated college publications in the country.
Most of those e-mails are gone. Long gone. Probably deleted or forwarded to lawyers who responded with meaningless threats. My name, and now my tears, will always be with The GW Hatchet.
Jake Sherman was The Hatchet’s 2007-2008 editor in chief. Since his first story on Sept. 7, 2004, he has written more than 280 stories for The Hatchet and GWHatchet.com.