Madeleine Morgenstern: Breaking into the Hatchet family

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.

I remember my first time walking into the townhouse. It was the first weekend of freshman year, during an open house, and I went on a whim – a friend thought it would be cool to check out.

I wish I could say it was fate from the moment I walked up the narrow, rickety staircase and took in the years of living history on the walls… but it wasn’t. Despite the police scanner crackling in the background and Roper’s best efforts to sell me on the fact that I would be able to Google myself, I only wrote sporadically at first.

Things picked up though, and by second semester, I was taking on more assignments, and come March I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to apply for an editor spot.

It was.

With only about a dozen stories under my belt, I realize now there was no way I was getting a position on staff as a sophomore. But in doing so, I realized something. What I had previously thought of as just a casual relationship with The Hatchet became much more. I wanted in.

Being told “no” spurred me to take on more, to write front-page stories, to interview former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and to take on strange assignments, including one about the odd world of alternate reality games.

That is, until I got turned down again the following year.

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

By now, I had the Hatchet bug bad. Heading into my junior year, I took on the Student Association beat in an effort to stay as involved as I could. I wrote weekly, picked Hatchet work over homework and got my first taste of 2 a.m. nights when conspiratorial SA senators wanted to meet up and chat about gossip and tips.

So when editor interviews rolled around again, this was it. Last chance.

Thank God French hired me even though I fucked up that copy test.

Come senior year, I was finally in! Finally on staff, the thing I’d wanted most for more than two years. And I was terrified.

The Hatchet is a major commitment, staffed by hardcore journalism kids who love what they do and get a rush out of telling students’ stories and holding the University accountable. At our first meeting, Justin told us all to look around, because the people gathered in that room would become a family, brought together by the kind of closeness that only comes from late nights and squabbling over last-minute decisions. (Justin continues to be fond of a similar exercise every Sunday.)

And he was absolutely right. It took me a little while to get here, but it was worth every damn minute.

Nat, you were my first editor. Thank you for showing me the ropes and for calming me down after Fukuyama made me cry while covering my second-ever story. Alexa, you told me I was a good writer and made me feel important by giving me bigger stuff. Amanda, you were a great mentor and helped keep me sane during my year on the SA beat.

To my writers, thank you for all of your hard work this year. It has been a privilege and an honor to watch you grow as journalists. Sarah, they’re just big kids with fake titles – learn a lot and kick some ass. You’re going to be fantastic next year. Amanda, Gabi and Chelsea – it’s going to be stressful, but it’s also going to be the most fun you’ve ever had. Cherish it.

Annu and Lyndsey, no prodo night is complete without stopping downstairs for a visit. You’re both amazing, talented and strong women.

Gabe, it started with lunch with a notable alumnus back in October, and I feel like you haven’t stopped making me laugh since. If I had your talent for speechmaking, this would be much easier and we would all be laughing a lot more.

To the news staff, even though we kvetched during long Friday-night editing sessions, fretting over incomplete stories, bitching about the Ministry of Truth and listening to Amy go gangsta when writers missed deadlines – I secretly loved every one of them.

Priya, I still don’t understand all those noises you make, but your sunshiny personality and absolute love for this paper are a joy to be around. You’re going to go far.

Andrea, my campus partner in crime, I was absolutely delighted when you joined news. You’re one of my favorite people to talk to, and to drink with.

Amy, I knew after riding shotgun in your car to Ocean City we were going to hit it off. You regularly make me snort with laughter over the outlandish things that come out of your mouth. I hope you get to cover Ice-T one day.

Cahn, there are no words. I feel like you’re an institution, and I have learned so much under you. If there’s one person who will make it in this suffering journalism field, without a doubt it’s you.

French, you gave me the most amazing opportunity anyone could give. I’m constantly in awe of how you handle yourself and this paper. The Hatchet is truly lucky to have you for another year.

To the Directorate – Emily, Jake, Andrew and Betsy – thank you for putting up with my chronic Hatchet-related absenteeism. Ours is a unique group, and I couldn’t ask for better friends.

Dan, you are the most wonderful, kindest and most patient man. Thank you for not complaining when I had to interrupt a date to take a phone call or e-mailed a writer under the table. We’re quite a pair. I love you.

Mom, Dad, Adam and Michael, I am who I am because of you. Thank you for all of your love and encouragement. Aunt Erika, thank you for helping me get here at all.

To those who will come after us, remember we’re the ones who keep the University in line. Enjoy it, give them hell – and please, get some new chairs. -30-

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