Sarah Ferris: Emboldened by traditions

Media Credit: Elise Apelian | Senior Staff Photographer

Sarah Ferris, a farm girl from Newtown, Conn., has spent two years sitting in this corner of the townhouse, which is perfectly positioned to overhear everything in the EIC office while micromanaging everything at the photo desk.

Sarah Ferris, a farm girl from Newtown, Conn., has spent two years sitting in this corner of the townhouse, which is perfectly positioned to overhear everything in the EIC office while micromanaging everything at the photo desk.

Media Credit: Elise Apelian | Senior Staff Photographer
Sarah Ferris, a farm girl from Newtown, Conn., has spent two years sitting in this corner of the townhouse, which is perfectly positioned to overhear everything in the EIC office while micromanaging everything at the photo desk.

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.

In a gut-wrenching act of fate, I spent my final week on The Hatchet packing up 110 years of its history captured in photographs, awards and framed front pages to move to our beautiful new townhouse.

We threw out the dingy red chairs and old rainbow iMacs, peeled decades-old bumper stickers off the cabinets and sorted the dozens of AP style and media law books collecting dust on the shelves.

As I cleared out my desk, I realized I will be the last editor to sit there for production days that often span 15 hours. I will be the last editor to stare at the Thomas Jefferson quote chalked onto the wall, to look up to greet the stream of people climbing the staircase or to crack open the window to survive the sweltering summer production days.

It was impossible not to be overwhelmed by the emptiness of 2140 G St., which has served as a training ground and a second home to thousands of student journalists. I’ll probably never fully grasp the enormity of this institution, but moving out of that townhouse certainly brought me close.

You lift blue bound volumes piled onto shelves at the townhouse and physically feel the weight of its history. You read letters and reports from nine University leaders pressed into files. You see the front page photos of students rioting outside Thurston Hall, a campus shaken by a presidential assassination attempt and a burning Pentagon building.

You realize that you are following decades of editors who sat on the same couches, met with the same administrators and drank on the same beaches in Ocean City. All at once, you are inspired and emboldened by the traditions – and terrified of dismantling them.

But this is journalism, and in my last four years at the Hatchet, we’ve veered from more institutional precedents than I can recount.

Cory and I didn’t expect to make the switch to weekly this year. We didn’t expect to redesign our print edition in just one summer. We didn’t expect to grow an entirely student-run business team from scratch.

Along the way, we ditched InCopy. We unplugged the clunky desktops and those archaic phones. We stopped sending each other Word documents and moved everything to Google Docs. We got rid of “web extras.”

It was messy – like it’s probably supposed to be – but I think we are leaving The Hatchet in a position to truly soar.

Our final words for this newspaper are, appropriately, dramatic. We strive to leave our mark on this paper because it has changed our own lives so completely.

This job swallows you. Your phone, your inbox, your sleep schedule. You put in everything you have, beating back the gravity of deadlines and the seemingly impossible expectations of your brilliant editors. Then you take their places. You fuck up, you lose faith, you make the tough calls and fight yourself not to rethink them later.

It’s always tough to pick my favorite “Hatchet memories.” Most of the time we’ve spent together – huddled over laptops, marking up reports and interview transcripts and even the Zipcar rides to courthouses and police stations – blurs into the daily grind of publishing this newspaper.

But what continually stands out are the incredible people that defined my time here.

French: Thank you for not letting me quit. The townhouse felt so empty after you, Radler, Andrea, Turley, and Traynor left. You all let me in, and I’m so grateful.

Jordan: You’re one of the hardest working people to pass through 2140 and one of my favorite friends that I met through The Hatchet. Francis, I never knew what to expect from you, but you are my constant voice of reason. Ermey, Amanda and Gabe, I actually do miss your late-night dramatic readings of erotic novels.

Erica, Cam and Sam: Don’t sell your talents short. You’ve each impressed me this year with your dedication to your craft and to this newspaper, and now I want to see more. Sam: I will truly miss all your jokes that I probably only half understood.

James: The other funniest person on this newspaper. When we hired you for this job, I wanted so badly for you to love The Hatchet too, and I’m so glad you, Lauren and the rest of the business team haven’t been scared away by this crazy editorial staff.

Jenna, Robin, Rachel SM, and Rachael G: I have no idea what happens downstairs most of the time, but you all rock it. RJK: Let me know if you ever want braids again.

Justin: From our very first interview together, I knew you were going to do great things. I’ve loved watching you climb at this newspaper. Sorry about spelling your name wrong in your first front page byline. Jacob: I wish I knew you better this year. I’m coming to find you on the West Coast.

Nick Ong: With all of your commitments, I have no idea how you accomplished everything you did. Thanks for covering me all those times at the writing center and for being the reason I attended my first (and only) GW theater performance. Sean Hurd, keep rocking SF. Nora, I selfishly wanted you for news, but I know you’ll do great with #sports.

Ally: I’ve had my eye on you since day one. You’ve got a big year ahead of you, and I know you’ll make me proud. Zaid and Jax: Keep working hard, I promise it’s worth it. I’ll be reading this year.

Maulik, Pratheek and Malcolm: I lost so much sleep over finding a web team but never imagined we’d find two people as ambitious and dedicated as all of you. Keep shaking things up. At the end of the day, I know you’ll keep everything steady.

Gabe: I always knew I’d get you to join the dark side. Thank you for pushing the web team to do more and being (mostly) resilient when it didn’t work out perfectly. I’ll totally kill you first. Prom!

Elise: Thank you for being awesome and for being ridiculous with me. Sorry we’ll never know what happened to your leg.

Diana: Your smile is contagious and I’ve missed you this semester. Nick Rice: I don’t know how the Hatchet could have functioned these past two years without you. You are so talented and I look forward to being friends outside of the townhouse.

Josh: You have the brightest personality out of anyone I have ever met at GW and possibly in life. Your cheery outlook and natural humor are qualities for which I will constantly strive. Also, sometimes I still read Just Joshin’ columns for fun.

Jeremy: I’ve always been impressed by your grit and your guts. Sorry I laughed at the video you made. Push for answers and make me proud next year.

Zach: You can be an asshole and a half sometimes, but you’ve already made this newspaper better in so many ways. No one deserves success more than you.

Colleen: Team news MVP. Your improvement every single day has been a highpoint of my year. Few people surprise me, but you always did in the best of ways. I’m jealous that Volume 111 gets to have you when you’re truly going to shine.

Mel: My favorite wing girl. You’ve taken on one of the toughest positions at this newspaper and impressed us all. You’re one of my favorite people to be around and I can’t wait to see what news you break next year. Please make sure Colleen and Bri have fun sometimes.

Allison: Your friendship is the best thing to come out of 3 a.m. prodos. There’s no one else I’d rather sneak Natty Lights into the townhouse with, find excuses to blast country music or hide under the production desks. You keep me tethered to the world outside 2140 and I know we’ll share so much more together.

Priya: You’ve been my most honest critic and even when I didn’t show it, I always appreciated your feedback. You taught me how to love journalism and this newspaper. Thank you.

Chloe: “It is what it is.” You and I understand each other on a level that I don’t think I’ll ever understand – or find again with someone else. I will miss you so much next year. Do big things.

Cory: I am constantly awed by – and envious of – your talent. You have done an incredible job in so many impossible positions this year and I’ve learned so much working with you. There’s no one at this newspaper who I’ve wanted to impress more. I’m so excited to stop being mom and dad and finally talk about non-Hatchet things.

Brianna: We’ve shared mosquito nets in Nairobi, cab rides to MPD at 2 a.m. and more pots of coffee than I can count. Your dedication to The Hatchet is unmatched, and it’s been inspiring to be part of your rise here. I trust you completely with this newspaper, but I promise I’m not going anywhere. “Thank-you” for everything. You can do this.

Molly: From kindergarten to college graduation, I’m so happy to have shared this with you. I’m sorry for the late nights. I can’t wait to see where your talents take you.

Brady: You’ve been my rock (and my reality check) since the sixth grade. Xoxo.

Aurora and Katherine: There’s no way I would have survived without you both this year. Thank you for letting me rant and occasionally become a recluse for this job. I will miss all of our adventures. Katherine, I’m coming to Texas so we can continue our deep talks about spirit dinosaurs.

And to the hardest-working people I know – Mom and Dad, your support has meant everything to me. All my success is yours.


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