It’s nerve-wracking to walk up those stairs for the very first time, isn’t it? You notice historical Hatchet front pages and countless awards hanging on the wall as you make your way up the winding stairs that you’ll probably trip and fall down at some point in the next four years. You’re probably heading upstairs to meet with your new editor about your very first assignment – which, honestly, will most likely run in the paper with little of your own writing intact.
Someday you will feel comfortable walking up those stairs. The townhouse at 2140 G Street will become a home away from home, a place where you’ll sit on the couch and eat pad Thai and blast classic rock or Norah Jones. Don’t get me wrong, you will have real work to do here. But even when you don’t, it’s a pretty comfortable place to be.
Even though I’ve run up and down the townhouse stairs a thousand times, I can’t help but remember that first nervous trek up to the editorial department now that I’m finally writing my first article for The Hatchet. You know the feeling.
I first walked upstairs my sophomore year. I had stumbled across an ad seeking copy editors while reading The Hatchet and thought, ‘Why not?’ I went for it. With a love for reading and news and an aversion to bad writing and misplaced apostrophes, why wouldn’t I? I took a mock editing test, had an interview or two and was hired as copy editor. Once my name was added to the staff box, I was thrown into the fray to make sense of 12 pages of unfamiliar names and faces and places twice a week.
Two years, countless production nights and thousands of untangled sentences later, here I am, still reading The Hatchet. Maybe it sounds as if not much has changed. It has, a lot and for the better. I’ve learned a lot in this place – and not just about making good writing better.
I learned to pay attention to everything. And yes, I do mean everything.
I learned to focus in the midst of chaos.
I learned to have a thick skin. After all, the easily offended never get any stronger (or any more sarcastic).
I learned a little bit about every section of the paper, thanks to the fact that I get to see and read and nitpick it all. I’ve learned about everything from how the SA operates to how to speak basketball – I’m not fluent or anything, but my reading comprehension isn’t bad.
I learned to embrace being called “Copy” and serving as a human AP Stylebook.
I learned – to my eternal surprise – that I can serve a volleyball over the net. I cannot, however, catch a softball to save my life.
I learned the titles of an endless number of administrators, none of whom I’ve ever actually met.
I learned that 24 hours is all the time I ever need to spend in Ocean City, Md., perhaps in a lifetime.
I learned to love The Hatchet for not minding too much when I ran off to New Zealand for a semester, for letting me play travel blogger and dabble in writing for the Web, for taking me back in when I came home again.
I learned – I’m still learning – that writing 30 column inches takes a surprisingly long time.
I learned that there just might be a place for me in journalism.
I learned that details matter.
I learned – maybe most importantly – that the dedication and enthusiasm within these walls are pretty damn contagious. When it’s nearing 2 a.m. on a Wednesday night and we’re gathered around the computer to write and rewrite and rewrite again the front-page headlines, I occasionally can’t think of much else besides the fact that it’s nearing 2 a.m. But someone will inevitably come up with a joke headline involving either alliteration or a pun that I will probably argue in favor of. Then someone will come up with the real headline, which we’ll mull over and pull apart and repeat and make sure it’s really right. Maybe it’s strange, but during these moments, it feels like a privilege to perch on the counter in the production office in the middle of the night and contribute to something special. The Hatchet is what it is thanks to a group of people for whom late nights, hard work, excellent journalism and insane humor are the norm, and I’m lucky to work alongside them.
A few people deserve a few extra props.
Claire, I’d still be reading a hard copy of the paper the morning after if not for you. Thanks for all of your guidance and thanks for assuring me that The Hatchet is a pretty great place to spend some time.
Will, I am thrilled that the copy department officially has more than one member now and can probably legitimately be called a department, but I am especially happy to have spent the year working with you. Though I may have some concerns about a completely semicolon-free Hatchet next year, I know that everything is in good hands. Your creativity and your skepticism will continue to serve you well. It’s your call now; you’re the copy editor.
Anna, you’re committed and observant. Everything else will be second nature soon.
Andrew, I could say tons more, but I’ll just say this: I love you.
Marisa, Joanna and Danielle, you have been fantastic roommates. I’ve been lucky to share the year with the three of you, from the good times (a fabulous Halloween party or just a few Jeopardy! episodes) to the bad (our bedbug debacle).
My non-Hatcheteer friends – especially the members of the Core, near and far – you’ve made my GW experience something unforgettable.
Mom and Dad, thanks for encouraging me to do what makes me happy.
As I wrap up my first and last Hatchet article, I’ll say just one last thing. Thanks for that first opportunity to venture up the townhouse stairs – everything turned out great.