Andrew Nacin: Starting from scratch and relishing the opportunities

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches – “30” was historically used to signify the end of a story – to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year.

People often ask how The Hatchet found me. Come to think of it, I’ve never set foot in a journalism or computer science classroom. It all started with a print classified:

WEB POSITIONS AVAILABLE
The GW Hatchet
The Hatchet is looking to fill positions on its Web staff. …

Little did I realize how much that ad would change my life.

All these years later, I owe the paper everything. Many before me have used this space to express similar sentiments, often accompanied by sincere gratitude and humility for The Hatchet guiding them on a path toward journalism. But I’m the first to use this space to thank The Hatchet for a path toward web development.

In programming, the first lines of code are often definitions – literal constants that are held unchanged throughout. My time at The Hatchet can best be characterized as a variable in pursuit of definition, never one constrained by it. If my title hasn’t changed much since my freshman year, how I define myself certainly has – growing from one definition to the next, from project to project, milestone to milestone, from Web producer and CSS hacker, to Web designer and new media geek.

It was less than a year ago I finally realized I had the skills to call myself a developer. The Hatchet has certainly pushed me to grow, to learn many new concepts, techniques and programming languages (I’ll need to take off my shoes and socks to provide an accurate count), even some in the course of a weekend when a particular deadline neared. I’m very proud of all of the cool projects I’ve had the privilege of tackling. Some you may rely on every day, others you may enjoy their benefit unknowingly, as they silently crunch away behind the scenes.

It all came down to a print classified – ink on paper. Ironic, given the state of the industry, not to mention what has become my chosen path.

Without The Hatchet motivating me to pick up a keyboard and learn and absorb everything I can, I would not be where I am today. Not even close. I’ve always been passionate. But The Hatchet inspired me in ways I didn’t know were possible, opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities, and most importantly, gave me something to be passionate about.

Where does The Hatchet take me next? Late last year, I began contributing heavily to WordPress, an amazing piece of software that powers millions of sites, including a good portion of The Hatchet’s and many others you probably visit daily. Recently, I was named one of its developers. It’s an honor and a privilege, and I know with certainty it would not be possible if I were not afforded such an amazing opportunity at The Hatchet to learn, (to debug,) and most importantly, to grow.

In this space, we often thank each other and share lame inside jokes. Having been at this paper longer than most, I have far too many colleagues – many of them close friends – that I must thank, but I need to try anyway. (I’ll get one-word jokes out of the way now: nocturnality, hockey, Eve.)

Howie: You will be an incredible loss to the paper and you deserve a great deal of thanks for all you’ve done, not just for the paper, but for me. Thank you for putting up with my antics and I wish you the best.

Lauren, Emily, Justin, Rist, and the rest of the next generation of Hatcheteers: You are a brilliant group of journalists. Make us proud.

Greg before me, you started me on a journey for which I am indebted. Connor, I only hope I imparted enough.

Scire: You may be the most passionate person I know. (And that’s a good thing.)

Hadas: We tend to have our best moments at restaurants. We should keep that up.

Nat, Alberg, Dan and Louis: There is no better sport than good humor. Keep it going.

Chris, you’ve been a great sport – thank you for always entertaining my ideas.

Joanna, Alexa, Kyle and Natalie: Without your bold personalities and bright faces, The Hatchet simply hasn’t been the same. Tim and I haven’t been the same.

Amanda and Marcia: You were both recruited into unsuspecting, ill-defined and evolving roles, and you both flourished. You are two highly skilled, passionate people, an absolute pleasure to work with, and I am incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish this year.

To the previous old guard – especially Ceasar, Roper, Jake and Salkin – thank you for pushing me closer to perfection every day and never settling for less. You set the expectations high, and I miss every moment of the constant pressure to adapt, to learn, to succeed.

Photo, production and copy: You are the unsung heroes. Without you, we’d never have a polished product.

Viktors: The web department was your door to The Hatchet. I’m glad you stuck with it.

Matt: Thank you for helping me through my many trials.

Tim and Byers: I don’t think I can possibly describe how much I will miss both of you. There are few people, professionally and personally, who know me better than the two of you. Together, we share some awesome memories. Of all the opportunities we never achieved, think of all the ones we grabbed by the horns. I’ll certainly remember them.

I’ll even miss the oft-repeated questions etched on my brain, Tim’s “Naaa-cin, can we do this?” and Byers’ “Let me ask you something?” Thank you for believing in me as I have in each of you.

@Balter: Your skills and ability to get things done are unrivaled and ought to be legendary. (And I owe you one for introducing me to WordPress.) My best find and a damn good friend.

Nikki: You taught me that the most important thing in my life isn’t online. Thank you for always being there. You mean everything to me, and I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for you.

It’s been nearly 200 issues spanning five volumes. Scores of breaking stories. Countless late-night trips with Viktors to 7-11 and CVS. A few national awards. And 43,000 e-mail threads and counting. I’ve rearranged the front page from Spain, airports and trains. My friends “on the outside” termed the obsession “Hatcheting.” Many at the paper wonder when I sleep. (I don’t, but I’m looking forward to the day I can). My first memory was knocking on the front door and staring up the winding staircase at a respected institution. The next years are a blur – there are too many memories for me to share, for me to remember.

The masthead may say “Web Director,” but I’ve learned a dash or two of journalism along the way from some incredibly talented people. While the articles and photos may never find their way into a portfolio, I’ve had the privilege of contributing to some of our campus’ more pivotal stories.

For most, The Hatchet prepares them for the real world. It sent me on an unexpected but welcome path. Ninety-nine percent of what I know today, I have learned during my time at The Hatchet. And yet, I have so much more to learn. (I guess that’s what I get for missing out on all those computer science classes.)

Time brings change. Just as when a user installs the next version of software he brushes aside the last, within four years, my time at The Hatchet will be forgotten. I’ve left my mark, not to mention a hundred thousand lines of code, some of which will most likely outlast any memory of me.

As I reluctantly move on, I can’t help but look back, smile and say “thanks” to the people, to the institution, to the opportunity.

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