Tim Gowa: Eternally grateful for the ride of my life

The Hatchet has been my home for four years.

Some people mean this in a metaphorical way. I mean it literally. It’s been my mailing address, my second bedroom, a kitchen, and a cafeteria. And although I’ll always instinctively write “2140 G” as my official residence on forms, it’s time to say goodbye to the newspaper that changed so much of my life.

Things will never be the same without The Hatchet. There are no words to properly describe how much GW and The Hatchet have shaped me.

For everything I’ve taken from The Hatchet – namely, my weight in office supplies – it’s given me so much more.

We are more than a student organization, more than a sports team (go Bears), and more than a newspaper. We are a family.

*****

I started here designing pages, frequently until the early hours of the morning, seeing one too many sunrises. I began to question if my sleep cycle would ever return to normal. (It hasn’t.) But in my long run, starting at one of the most fundamental places in the preparation of the newspaper gave me a unique perspective: I truly got my college education at The Hatchet.

There’s something strange about writing this. It’s the last time to chase after a fire truck in pursuit of breaking news, the last time to endlessly dissect minutiae in edboard, the last time to run down the stairs to the GW Deli for a Diet Coke and a chicken club with a side of real life lessons from Joe.

There’s the temptation to make this transcendent, to make it convey how deeply appreciative you are of everyone who has been lucky enough to pass through the townhouse. But in the end, it’s only possible to write this for yourself.

In journalism, they say to show, not tell. But as any graduating editor knows, it’s impossible to describe the experience of being inside the townhouse to someone on the outside. And it’s impossible to distill my four years of experience into a single column, although it’s a cherished tradition to try.

*****

It was May of 2007 when I first knew there was something truly special about The Hatchet.

Hospitalized in the middle of the night with a random and bizarre injury, it was my fellow Hatcheteers who accompanied me in the emergency room and stayed by my side through the night. They demonstrated that with the responsibility of producing one of the nation’s best non-daily college newspapers there was something of equal importance: finding a family during the formative years of college.

It was natural. As journalists, The Hatchet has a mission that few other organizations could aspire to: Twice a week, we aim to inform our readership about critical news of our community and challenge the administration’s conventional wisdom and orthodoxy. Our job is only satisfied when you pick up a paper and walk away more informed, more engaged and more compelled to participate in life at the University.

It is an uncompromising mandate, and one fulfilled by the sweat, tears (and sometimes blood) of the 20 or so men and women who call 2140 G – The Hatchet’s townhouse – home for far too many hours every week.

It is the photographer who twists themselves into knots to compose that perfect shot, the reporter who defiantly hurdles a seemingly impervious police line to tackle a source, the copy editors who ensure we are accurate and literate before hitting newsstands. They sacrifice sleep, nutrition and sanity. They ignore academic pressures. They plead with friends and significant others for-just-one-more-minute to get it right and get it out on time.

In all that time together, it’s impossible not to become so close. It happens when covering a historic election. It happens when a series of controversial posters keeps the staff up to 5 a.m. It happens every day.

We finish each other’s sentences, never leave a burn or “your mom” unsaid, but at the end of the day, we couldn’t be more proud of each other’s work.

Working together under such consistent stress forms relationships that endure more than anything or anyone ever should. Inside 2140 G, we over-eat and we certainly push the boundaries of political correctness. But besides all the accumulated inside jokes, we meet people we’ll know and trust forever.

Jake Sherman, the man who taught me more than I ever should admit, once wrote that we could never hide from each other and never close the door on our emotions. We see each other at our best and at our worst. It’s true.

We’ve seen broken hearts and broken lives, listened and fixed, then somehow returned to the pressure of producing another persuasive editorial, another news story, another interesting feature – just another issue of the paper. Over the years, I have belonged to four Hatchet staffs, and each has constantly surprised me with not only their drive to tell the story, but to one another.

In datelines and deadlines, Hatchet reporters, editors and photographers are the eyes, ears and conscience of the GW community. But we will always be more than a collective of aspiring journalists, or just a machine that provides a young staff with a direction to their future.

Kyle Spector once wrote that those who work for The Hatchet have no feelings. With deference to objectivity, he couldn’t have been more wrong. We’ve poured our heart, energy and soul into the pages of this newspaper.

There’s no other group on campus who more seriously and consistently contemplates the challenges of the University than our staff – editors will sweat the nuance of every word, whether it’s about a capella groups or the University president – and are vitally invested in the outcome.

We know there are always things worth fighting for.

*****

For four years, those behind The Hatchet have taught me more than any one professor – it’s always been my firsthand connection to the most sincere, focused and passionate individuals at GW. I walk into the townhouse every morning knowing that I will be challenged, tested and guaranteed to learn from my peers.

I will always treasure my memories at this paper, but it is time to move beyond the safe confines of the townhouse to new pursuits. There are other places where the problems are real, the solutions are sparse, and the opportunities are rare. We are privileged to attend a University with a beautiful campus, an extraordinarily talented student body, and a remarkable faculty.

I’m honored to be part of it, and to have met and been influenced by so many amazing people. But the greatest work yet remains to be done. Never get complacent or forget why you are here.

To my successors, hang on for the ride of your lives. It’s so worth it.

***

But to whom much is given, much is expected.

With the prospect of making a difference in the community, The Hatchet ignites in its young staff a desire to discover and change the world. That’s what I’m off to do, and I’m eternally grateful to The Hatchet for showing me how.

Now, if only I could find my shoes – they’re around here somewhere. -30-

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