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 was about 20 minutes into my drive from Philadelphia to D.C. that I realized I was heading the wrong direction on I-95. The sensation you get when you realize you’re not where you thought you were is unpleasant, made doubly so since I was traveling by myself. The routines that accompany repetition no longer feel so familiar. The scenery, while not unwelcoming, is not what you expected. So you sit up a little straighter, turn the radio down and realize that it’s time to find an exit. If you don’t have a GPS, you can never be sure that the next exit will take you where you need to go. But that’s fine. As long as you get back to heading in the right direction, you’ll end up where you need to be.
Analogies are a handy abstraction used to explain an experience to someone who, in their right mind, would never attempt to duplicate it. I figured it would be best to start with one when trying to summarize my time at The Hatchet. That way, even if you read no further than this paragraph, you can leave with some understanding of what it feels like to be finished with working at The Hatchet.
So what’s being on The Hatchet’s web team like? In some ways, it’s a pretty lonely existence. The office is always full of journalists, photographers and folks who work with paper-based content. There’s only ever one programmer. It’s a life spent being the black sheep.
That’s not to say that you go unappreciated. College journalists have a tough time comprehending anything technical, so when you can program even the simplest application, there are accolades galore. But that is both a blessing and a curse. When everything is amazing, nothing is.
There are some unbelievably talented journalists working at The Hatchet. They have the skills and talent to recognize work that goes above and beyond and work that doesn’t. But that’s not the case as a developer. Make an elegant function, craft some beautiful code, spends hours solving the hairiest bug, add someone’s name to the email listserv, toggle a settings option in WordPress. To journalists at The Hatchet, it’s all the same. The work you do cannot be appreciated by anyone but the next member of the web team. To work knowing that no one you work with will ever understand the quality of your work is a tough pill to swallow.
That being said, getting to work for The Hatchet is an experience I would not trade for the world. It is a drive I would relive in a heartbeat. The routines no longer feel familiar. The scenery has changed. It looks like it’s time to sit up a bit straighter, turn down the radio and look for an exit. But I leave having acquired a depth and wealth of knowledge I could never get from sitting in class. I have had the opportunity to make friends with people who are the most capable in their field. It’s a shame, because it’s almost all downhill for here.
Before I make my exit, there are people who have made a profound influence on my life in need of thanks:
Priya: There are are people in this world who have serious caffeine addiction problems. You put those people to shame. One day, I hope you’ll have a classic rock playlist that consists of more than Hall and Oates on repeat. You have an infectiously positive attitude about all things journalism (which you should probably get checked out). You were the first editor in chief I’ve worked under who made The Hatchet into something worth the time and effort. I didn’t start to enjoy attending GW until my senior year. I guess it’s the simple things that always have the most profound influence. Late night cookies and coffee. Happy hour at the Bier Baron. Killing time in the office. I will be unbelievably disappointed if I don’t get the opportunity to work with you again. But I guess I don’t have to worry. You’ve got the right stuff, kid. I’ll be seeing you around.
Nacin: There are times when I wish that I was a little bit older so we could have worked together on The Hatchet’s web team. There are times when you annoy the crap out of me. Most of the time it’s a little from column a, a little from column b. You were definitely one of the major reasons I decided to pursue a computer science degree. You were not one of the major reasons behind my decision to graduate. I hope to always stay in touch.
Guiffré: I didn’t know much about Okinawa or big wave surfing in my freshmen year. I’m graduating and I still know almost next to nothing about either one. Thanks for taking the time to make someone feel like part of the gang.
Rachel: I’ll never forget that my time at The Hatchet started with production. Thanks for giving me a shot. Your ability to find cute cat videos was always impressive.
Gabe: I hope the retirement goes well. I’m not quite sure why you spent so much time sleeping on the office couch. It was a source of constant amusement.
Amanda: The stream of consciousness that emanated from you and the copy section was impressive in its political incorrectness. Dizzying heights of disturbing were reached on the daily. I’m still working on my Tetris skillz. Be prepared for some serious ass-kicking.
Ryan: Good luck with the English degree. I’m sure the scuzzy bar that hires you will be proud to know they’re employing a Phi Beta Kappa.
Devereaux: Thanks for having my back. You’ve always been the cornerstone of the web team. I don’t think I could have made it night after night without having somebody there to keep me grounded. You dealt with a ton of crap that would have made a person of weaker convictions throw in the towel. I’m constantly amazed that you didn’t decide early on to jump ship. I think that will always impress me the most. You have had a devotion to this institution that I envy. You’ve dealt with a ton of crap over the years, and you’ve dealt with it with extraordinary tact and grace. When the going gets tough, when it would be so much easier to just throw in the towel and call it a day, I always pull up the “Harry, I’ve reached the top” bit, burst out laughing and carry on with what needs to be done. I will never be able to thank you enough for sticking with it all these years. Remember, this doesn’t mean I won’t hunt you down and kick your ass if I see that clip from “Taken” just one more time.
Allison: There’s a an enjoyment to be derived from the consistency of the music played downstairs. No matter the hour of the day or the mood in the office, if a song is being played it will be from a Summer Hits of the 90’s or Billboard top 100 playlist. Please remember to laugh at the next web peron’s jokes. Sometimes they just need to be humored.
Traynor: As my figure might suggest, sports is not my forte. I do, however, have an immeasurable amount of respect for the work you have accomplished while at The Hatchet. Louis may have had an appreciation for the finer things in life, like classic rock and segway models, but the sheer amount of skill and talent you have as a reporter is unmatched by any sports reporter I’ve known while on staff. Let me state for the record that I do think if you root for the Bruins you’re a chump.
Jordan: Les Mis is an excellent musical. I might consider cutting a duet album with you in the future. Stay tuned. Good luck with the public health degree. Try not to let too much ebola escape into the wild.
Ferris: I have an immense amount of respect for the work you and Cory are going to accomplish. You guys are on the ball. I expect to see the volume 110 staff to produce significant quantities of quality work. Try not to puppeteer the web team too much. The next time I’m in Connecticut, I’d like to try my hand at milking a cow. Please arrange that.
Cory: Good luck with The Hatchet Tumblr!
To my family, I don’t think I was ever entirely truthful about what I did or how much time I spent on the paper. Thanks for not asking too many questions, and I love you all.
To my girlfriend, Martha, I always think you consider me to be a bit insane for sticking with The Hatchet for so long. I can’t thank you enough for, if not quite understanding, at least accepting the fact that I might be a bit insane for enjoying the late hours and terrible schedule. I love you, and I cannot thank you enough for always being there for me.
As the Dude says, it’s all “strikes and gutters, ups and downs.” For the last four years, and especially this past year, I’ve been lucky enough to end up throwing a lot of strikes. I can only hope that as I make my way towards my next destination, my luck will continue to hold. I don’t if I’m moving on to bigger or better things. I just know that I’m moving on, and hopefully I’m once again headed in the right direction. -30-