Claire Autruong: A job by any other name

I joined The Hatchet for the paycheck and inwardly raised my eyebrows at the first sappy, ode-to-Hatchet 30 pieces I read. And then a funny thing happened on the way to writing my own.

It’s mildly ridiculous, the sentimentality I feel as I’m writing this. I didn’t think it would happen to me, but sometimes you just don’t see it coming until it’s over.

I don’t consider myself what you would call a “journalist type.” I’m not particularly tenacious, do not possess a particularly insatiable curiosity, nor am I particularly dedicated to representing the Fourth Estate – all qualities I admire in my fellow Hatcheteers.

Really, I ended up here because I read an ad three and a half years ago while doing the crossword. Good at grammar? Need a job? Check and check. Want to be The Hatchet’s copy editor? Sure.

I ended up in the townhouse on a whim and stuck around because it pulls you in.

A lot has changed along the way.

People come and go. Things are cleaner these days, relatively speaking. Everyone (Tim) is working hard to make the paper more righteously legit. We (Tim) put(s) on events, we (Tim) hold(s) open houses and workshops. Prodo, EIC and copy consistently get out before 3 a.m. now. The infamous April Fool’s issue, while still infamous, no longer involves sex objects, dropped pants or breasts. We even attempt to recycle.

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches - called 30 pieces - to reflect on their time at The Hatchet. Browse all.

But you know what they say about “the more things change.” The things that count have stayed the same.

The townhouse is still crap. (And if anyone outside The Hatchet ever repeats that statement to me, be forewarned that I will be intensely offended.)

It’s still hard to believe that the papers that sit on the sidewalk in front of 2140 G St. are actually produced in the midst of the morass inside.

Prodo is still the heart and soul of the paper. The walls covered in fake headlines created at two in the morning that only we would find funny, it still reminds me of rubber-band fights, Tim taped to a chair, Jonny’s specialty casas and a less-cleanly time when there were more dangers lurking in the bathroom than just a Roper walk-in. It still reminds me of our Hatchet moms – Sarah, Kyle, Natalie – who kept us all on the straight and narrow.

The photo department is still a mysterious world of toning and cropping and budgets. When it comes to our gifted photographers, past and present, I don’t consider “a thousand words” to be a cliché. I could make a list of the contributions made by the photo editors – Sam, Erin, Ben, Nick, Ellis – but it wouldn’t fit (cue: “That’s what she said!”).

Web and multimedia are still tough and thankless jobs. Greg, Nacin, Salkin and Ryder put us on the map, and we keep getting better. Augmenting our Web presence is and will continue to be a staple of the next few editor in chief candidate platforms, guaranteed.

The news department is still the meat of our paper. They have always received the most criticism and the most praise from year to year. They have always deserved it. The ranks of news editors – Butler, Ceasar, Kojo, Ramonas, Alexa and co. – still define the words “tenacity” and “commitment” for me.

The sports desk still reminds me of Jake and Alberg – in sweats and, if we’re lucky, shoes – always lounging no matter what. And Joanna, totally owning that boys club. The sports folks still whip up articles on deadline faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Ops and the ed board are still writing about all the same things – GCRs, advising, dining, tuition, transparency, spending, spirit, whatever we can come up with after talking in circles. People who have no idea who we are or what we do still ask why we don’t sign our staff editorials. I still consider the Ops editors I have been lucky to know – Dempster, Spector, Gabe, Lizzie, Diana – to be among the smartest people to ever work at the paper.

Arts is still reinventing itself and still rocking it out, every year. The arts editors – Maura, Geoffrey, Brendan, Amanda – are still hip, weird, hilarious, alternative and talented.

Life still gives the paper a life. That joke is still old. The features folks – Caitlin, Katie, Leah, Brittany – still make sure that we’re not all about budgets and admissions and the SA. They still find and present the depth in our strange little GW world.

Copy still poaches the Arts/Life desk and I still think of that desk as “home base.” The rest of the staff is still slightly suspicious of people who would read and edit the entire paper as a function. It still takes a special grammar freak to do it – and I mean this in the fondest way possible, Ceasar and Andrea. I am still grateful that I got the job, and for all the hours of training and support that made me fit for it – thank you, Ceasar.

The editor in chief’s office is still a strange sort of halfway house. It’s still the only closing door inside the townhouse, still has couches like a psychiatrist’s office, still gets blasted by TKE music and that chair still makes you kind of a dick when you sit in it. The EIC is also still the most inscrutable, difficult, draining, unfathomably arduous student position on campus. Barnett, Caitlin, Jake, Roper – my respect for your burdens and your talents still knows no bounds.

Even with the advent of blogs – some valuable – The Hatchet remains the pre-eminent source for news and reporting. We still put in the work. We still cultivate the sources. We still have very specific journalistic responsibilities.

I still laugh in the face of anyone who believes that The Hatchet has an agenda. Trust me, we’re still too busy just trying to put a paper together in our crap townhouse to have anything as sinister as an agenda. We are still proud of ourselves, and we still earn the right to be. We still put out a quality product, and we still do a damned good job.

To those who are taking up the reins – always remember those who came before, what we accomplished, how we built on the shoulders of those who came before us. And then do better than we did.

The details change from year to year, but what makes The Hatchet special remains the same. We all still love it. The nostalgia still gets everyone in the end – these 30 pieces are still proof of that.

I still don’t know how I ended up here or how The Hatchet hippo-plodded its way into my life.

But I do know I wouldn’t change it for the world. -30-

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