Natalie Kates: My secret relationship

My parents thought I was hiding a relationship.

Beginning October of my freshman year, I was always “busy at The Hatchet,” but there was no evidence in the bylines. No media credit with my name on it. No “Natalie Kates, Hatchet Reporter” at the top of the front page. I would call them at 2:30 in the morning walking home from “the office.”

“But why,” they asked, “would a girl who used to go to bed by 10, be up that late?”

For most of my freshman year, I wasn’t associated with The Hatchet to anyone outside its walls. But I didn’t care. To the insiders of 2140 G St., I was already an integral part of the family.

The very first time I met Sarah Brown, The Hatchet’s production manager my freshman year, in a tiny room in the Marvin Center, she asked me what I was interested in: production or editorial.

At first I didn’t understand her question. As editor in chief of my high school newspaper, like most of The Hatchet’s production department, I had always been responsible for content and design.

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

A split-second later it dawned on me, and I said what a special few have since said to me: You mean I can do design without having to write? For those who have uttered this question (instead of its much more prominent opposite) the production department is a small haven in the journalistic beast.

That’s not to say, however, that The Hatchet isn’t a beast of its own.

I still don’t really know how I survived my first semester. If learning 20 new names isn’t hard enough, try learning how to tell apart 20 people, each of whom is sometimes called by their first name, sometimes their last, sometimes their job title and sometimes a nickname – depending on which of the staff members they’re talking to.

Then, imagine trying to do that while everyone is running around the office, yelling and throwing things across the building, fact checking, saving down photos and rewriting bad ledes.

But eventually, I figured out that “Dempster” was also “Will” who was also “Ops” and I began to feel like more of a contributor to the commotion than an observer.

I knew my inclusion into the family was complete when, sitting at a computer one night, my bra was unhooked through two layers of clothing in the time it took Jonny to snap his fingers – he didn’t even lose a step.

Or the time that Kyle and I chased Tim around the production room to get a page PDF’ed. Let’s just say that Tim’s butt was unhappy, but my knee was victorious and I sent that page to the printer.

Pranks are an important part of The Hatchet. It’s the sibling rivalry that really makes us a family – the yelling and screaming that goes into putting out a product that is a bit better than it would have been if we had all just kept our mouths shut. It’s how standards are raised.

I’m hoping that in their eagerness to take the reins and ignore/fill out all of Tim’s paperwork, the incoming staff doesn’t forget the history they are building upon. The people who put in the 40-plus hours a week to do your job before you did.

We might be the only organization willing to fight on behalf of the University’s voiceless – for instance, a downtrodden hippo – but it is solely up to each staff member to make sure The Hatchet is around for its 200-year anniversary, not to mention the 20th reunion of a group of 16 very close friends.

To all those close friends: Claire, Joanna, Kyle and Nick – you’re at the heart of most of my Hatchet memories, and I can’t believe that trip to Ocean City was three years ago. Roper – walking home at 2:30 in the morning with the guy you’ve just spent 12 or more hours in a townhouse with (frequently arguing) isn’t every staff member’s idea of fun, but it’s usually my favorite part of the night. Alexa, Ramonas, Andrea, Diana, and Abnos – I wouldn’t have been able to survive this last semester without you.

To those who came before me: The Hatchet was never the same once you left and I still find myself wishing you would all magically appear back in the townhouse one last time.

To the others we are leaving behind: Just don’t screw up. And in particular Erica and Rachel – I have a feeling I’m going to miss you next year more than you’ll miss me. Nacin – I can’t wait to be in the same time zone as you again. Timmy – try not to take over and reorganize the world until it’s ready. More importantly, remember you can’t do it all by yourself.

And to a special few who managed to stay unconnected from The Hatchet despite, and probably because of, my immersion: Nisha – your enthusiasm for our April Fools issues always made the production nights beforehand worth it. Katica – we really should make a movie and then write a book. We can even compromise and set it in France. Vanessa – words can’t describe how much you mean to me. You’re the sister I always wanted but never had. If you think I’m kidding when I try to get you to move with me to England, I’m not – I really don’t know how I’m going to live without you. P.S. I’ve never had more trouble writing anything than these two lines.

No one warned me that my parents would eventually be right. That I would fall in love with this paper and that leaving it – now for a second time after my year abroad – would be one of the hardest things I have had to do.

And as someone who has only written one other article for The Hatchet, no one ever mentioned that 30 inches really isn’t that much room at all.

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