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.
It’s 10 p.m. and I’ve just arrived at The Hatchet townhouse. I sit in front of a computer and start working – editing copy and deciding lead stories for the website – a process generally accomplished with limited interaction with whomever happens to be left editing pages.
Other than a few shouts to copy about whether it’s “three years” or “3 years,” or calls to Gabe about the next day’s multimedia, I focus on my work and am out of there in about an hour.
This scene didn’t quite meet my fantasy of late nights filled with inside jokes and the inspiration of newspaper publishing, but my Hatchet experience wasn’t normal from day one.
When I first arrived to GW in the fall of 2007, I was determined to join the ranks of dogged reporters who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of a great story. I knew The Hatchet – one of the region’s best college newspapers – would be my way in. The first day I stepped foot in the townhouse was the paper’s fall open house. After making a beeline for the free pizza, I ended up talking to Jess Calefati, The Hatchet’s senior news editor at the time. She had me write my contact information on a three-and-a-half by five-inch note card… but I’m not about to say the rest is history.
My evolution with The Hatchet has been almost painstakingly slow. I wrote a few articles in those first fall months of freshman year, and even received a couple of “good jobs” for my work, despite the fact that most of it had been severely rewritten by the time they reached print. Looking back, I know this is a tough-love experience every good journalist needs. And in an industry where the red pen rules, it is a true accomplishment to receive praise from an editor, however brief.
Despite my initial gusto for becoming a Hatchet reporter, my dedication to the paper faltered as I threw myself into an array of other GW activities, eager to expand my extracurricular involvement and determined not to chain myself to just one commitment. I had a one-year stint on the women’s crew team, a decision that devoured my social life and almost derailed my academic life – but gave me some impressive biceps. I joined a sorority, despite adamantly telling my mom that I was not a “sorority girl” and did not want to sign up for recruitment. The time crunch led me to stop accepting article assignments completely during second semester of freshman year.
I decided to try my hand at Hatcheting again sophomore year, but I still only managed a scattering of articles, excusing myself mentally for being “too busy.” I was uncommitted, unmotivated and somehow unable to find a balance in my life that made room for the passion that brought me to D.C. in the first place. It wasn’t until a summer stint at a broadcast news internship that I realized that I loved writing (and not TV news) and began asking for assignments from Emily. My enthusiasm for reporting was renewed by the time I left to study abroad in Copenhagen. And despite the distance, my time in Copenhagen actually brought me closer to The Hatchet.
I was Gchatting with Emily on a cold day in March, gossiping about who might be her successor as campus news editor, when she mentioned that she and Lauren were starting to interview for positions on the next year’s staff and encouraged me to apply. I had pretty much abandoned my lofty freshman-year reporting goals and figured the most I could hope for was another college try at being a staff writer in my senior year. But thanks to Emily, I said, why not?
I soon found myself on a Skype interview. Lauren offered me the Web editor position a week later. I accepted, without a clue as to what the position entailed, but knowing that my chance to finally be a part of The Hatchet had arrived and I wasn’t going to turn it down.
I received an added bonus in July when Lauren asked me to be the special issues editor as well. In the span of a few months, I went from being a near Hatchet dropout to having two paid positions on staff.
Managing both positions, a full load of classes and the added stress of being a senior looking for a job and a place to live after graduation, has been, at its worst, frustrating and emotionally draining, but at its best, challenging and rewarding. In the beginning, the nights were long; my time-management skills seemed to have left me behind, probably somewhere in Copenhagen. I started drinking coffee, a substance I had never before relied on. I suffered my fair share of emotional breakdowns and anxious nights rewriting articles or redoing photos at the last minute. But I’ve come out on the other side a stronger writer, a better Web journalist and better equipped to pursue what has ever more remained my passion – once I’m no longer living life within the confines of GW.
Lauren told me last summer that I would be thanking her later for hiring me as Web editor and giving me online journalism skills. Well, I guess “later” is now. Lauren, thank you for your wisdom! While I have yet to actually secure a job (which, I hope, has more to do with the job market than my lack of skills), I’ve come across several job postings looking for exactly the kinds of talents I’ve gained as The Hatchet’s Web editor.
Thank you to Emily, for constantly being attached to your e-mail. Your Gchat was definitely the driving force behind why I was on staff this year. Thank you also for encouraging me to take on more stories this semester and reinforcing that nothing substitutes for hands-on experience.
My biggest thank you goes to The Hatchet as an institution of learning in and of itself.?My GW home away from home hasn’t centered on?2140 G St.; but my journey from The Hatchet open house freshman year to a double-duty position on the staff roster this year has left me feeling lucky and grateful for the time I’ve spent with such a talented group of people, rediscovering the craft and magic of putting out the paper as a real journalist. -30-