When I joined the Hatchet staff, I began hearing the stories passed down: Tales of editors taking their cellphones into the shower because a building could start burning at any minute, skipping classes for an interview with the president and dropping everything to get to the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11.
My predecessors were instilling what we call The Fear, and soon I came down with a pretty bad case. Aside from reporting when I should have been in class and missing parties to finish stories, I often would half-wake up in the middle of the night, bolt upright in bed and, my roommates tell me, I would frantically ask, “Is that my phone ringing? Is it my editor? Is there breaking news?”
The Fear asks you to do better than your predecessors — which many times means taking chances and re-envisioning previous precedents — without letting the standards fall as you try.
The Fear changes your life: It fucks up your sleep, it kills your grades, it leaves you with less time for friends, it makes you lose your hobbies. Being a Hatchet editor is often a thankless job: Administrators get mad, some of your best stories don’t go viral and you question why the ones that do have, and your friends just don’t understand why you spend 15 hours at production every Sunday while they’re at brunch or still in bed. But The Fear also taught me drive, to lose parts of myself in the hopes of producing a better newspaper.
Through those struggles, a deep loyalty to this institution grows.
As you become more comfortable with the grueling job, the loyalty and The Fear intertwine. You then channel it toward the paper: To envision those hard-hitting enterprise series, to build a relationship that will help you land a big scoop, to go from watching your reporters learn what a nut graph is to pitching their first front-page story.
The Fear never goes away, and that’s a good thing. And I know I’ll take The Fear with me to the newsrooms waiting in that far off land of adulthood. For that, I’ll always be indebted to The Hatchet and those who came before me.
This job isn’t for everyone. It’s not for most, in fact. When people leave, it can feel personal, an affront to your case of The Fear. It reminds you of your own fervent loyalty each time, and then The Fear kicks in, pushing you to do better and remind others of their own Fear.
Many times, The Fear is taught through tough love. This job centers on self-discipline, and everyone is replaceable. The Fear reminds you that you have to prove yourself every day. It’s institutionalized through deadlines and standards like pushing hungover editors to edit their stories again by Saturday morning at 11 a.m. It’s spread through moments when someone’s Fear becomes notorious, like when a certain news editor had her roommate text me at 3 a.m. to let me know that the news editor had her night take a turn toward the bathroom. She promised to try her best to get her story edited again on time. The Fear is worrying about editing as you puke.
A healthy case of The Fear is what creates the best journalism. It’s what keeps the Hatchet breaking news, holding University officials accountable and winning awards.
And now that I’m about to leave, I’ve begun to follow the paths of editors before me — instilling the cycle of The Fear in the next crop of anxious editors. I sound cantankerous at times, and sometimes I think my lessons sound like a grandparent describing walking to school in the snow with no shoes on. Kids these days — they complain about a print issue on Mondays and an email edition on Thursdays, but what about when we built a 10-or-more-page newspaper twice a week? Who will be there to remind them of the topic archive we spent days creating during the summer before my sophomore year? It never came to fruition but we didn’t even think about making a peep. The Fear kept the negative energy from surfacing — and that needs to continue.
Thanks for The Fear, and thanks to everyone who’s helped mine thrive.
To my past, brilliant editors: Priya, I’ll never forget when you took me for a walk and brought me coffee when my mom was in the hospital in D.C. during CI prodo weekend. That act of kindness when I was just starting out on staff made me know The Hatchet would be my home. You’re an amazing journalist and you taught me how to be fierce and push myself. I’m so excited to frequent happy hour with you in New York. Cory, thank you for believing in me and giving me the finance beats my junior year. That decision changed how I thought about journalism and put me on the path to go into business reporting. I hope you’re verified on Twitter soon. San Francisco real estate deserves the skeptical light you’ve shone on it. Sarah, you’ve been a friend to me when I needed it and you’ve been a bitch to me when I needed it. You’re the hardest worker I’ve ever met, and whenever I thought I couldn’t do more this year, I always asked myself what you would do. I’ve always been in awe of you and cannot wait to see what you will do through your long and successful career.
Justin: Your vision is inspiring, and I’ve always been impressed with how thoughtful you are. Keep being provocative. I will always get on the floor with you at a party.
Zach: If your commitment to the Mets proves anything, your dedication to The Hatchet next year will not waver. Your spirit will make this institution shine. Sorry for yelling at you when I was transcribing.
Robin: You’ve pushed me to consider new ideas, and your steadfast passion for your craft has inspired me. I know you’re going to do great things.
Cam: You’re a chill dude. You also take kick-ass photos. Thanks for coming with me to a punk show in the PSK basement.
Francis: We explored the old Allen Lee together, and I think I deserved a photo credit on that one. I hope you make it back to New York. This is me being selfish.
To everyone else who has put this paper together with me for the past three years: You’ve all shaped me, and I thank you. Keep pushing yourselves and always know that your dedication to this staff should come before all else.
Jeanine: I knew we’d be great friends once you joined staff, and thanks for being my sensitivity check this semester. You took control of the section in a tough time but you’ve done so with the kind of perseverance, commitment and drive that this institution needs to see more of. Keep ball-busting. I know you’ll take the section to a whole new level and I look forward to following that. Plus, we can attend offensive happy hours at TGI Friday’s.
Diana: Your constant optimism and joy has made these past three years more enjoyable than I ever thought they would be. You’re so hard working, and I can’t wait to take New York with you. The Fourth of July we spent together will always be our defining moment: We weaseled our way in and got free food in the VIP section thanks to you.
Brandon and Robin: Be fair, be upfront and report the shit out of your stories. The next year will be hard, but with dedication you will thrive. Let this institution take you in and never look back.
Ryan and Ellie: Your eagerness and excitement to learn inspired our newsroom this spring, and it’s been a pleasure to watch you two grow over the past several months. I look forward to watching your successes through your next three years, and I hope you get to keep your hobbies.
Eva: We’ve always said you’re more Mel than Chloe, but I think you are your own. I’ll always be ready to make you Bolognese past midnight and I’ll always cry through SoulCycle with you. You will lead the news team next year and I know that’s a burden you will thrive on.
Jacqueline: I just ate all of your Chinese food, sorry. You didn’t say hi to me at that Bayou party during transition last year, but you’ve become a good friend. You may not think you’re ready, but you are. Keep up the sarcasm and keep the newsroom fun. You will do me proud.
Colleen: You’re the most meticulous person I’ve ever met, and that will take you far. I know you’re going to take this paper to new heights. (Sam: Take care of her in the next year. Make sure she has fun and has some eggplants in her life. I want to see you two make it to year five by 2016.)
Brianna: You were truly everything I could have asked for in an editor. You let me riff on my sometimes crazy ideas, you gave me the space to lead the section and you questioned parts I missed. You will take names and I’m excited to read it all.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond: Have I seen your face on TV? Or maybe I just recognize your name from Playbook. In all seriousness, thanks for being there for me during the 3 a.m. phone calls and eating my turkey at Hatchet Thanksgiving. It wasn’t actually kosher, sorry.
Nora: You’ve been obsessed with me since you became my writer and I’m obsessed with myself, so that worked out well. But let’s have some real talk: You are someone I can count on to go to a fancy dinner with no more than a text message, and I know you’re someone I can text about eggplants. Don’t let 51st State change. Thank you for being one of my best friends, and, if you don’t come to New York in a year, I will be severely disappointed.
Mel: Thank you for eating mac and cheese, and drinking white wine with me at District Commons, and thank you for being my best friend. I will continue to hope that you move to New York. We will get a lot of pedicures there.
51st State (and all the bartenders I’m leaving in D.C.): Thank you for being the institution I needed post-business hours. I know spending weekends with you will be one of the things I miss most about D.C. I hope you will be one of those places that never changes, but now that McFadden’s is gone, I worry. Stay weird, keep playing Bruce and Tom Waits on the jukebox and continue hosting My Chemical Romance sing-a-longs.
To all of the friends I’ve made at GW (Isabel, Caroline, Charlie, Michael, Priyanka, The Boys, and the rest): Thank you for never reading The Hatchet. I needed to come home and never talk about journalism and I needed to go to parties where no one knew I was an editor. To those who also work on The Rival, I’m disappointed there was never a head hunting attempt. Caroline and Isabel, I can’t imagine going through college with any other roommates. GW’s random roommate pair-ups brought us together, but we couldn’t be more perfect. I look forward to meeting in one of our cities in the future and clearing the room with Foxy Shazam’s “Oh Lord.”
Lexi, Julia, Sam and Helen: We’ve never been closer and I truly rely on you guys to be my support systems. I know you will be there for me, especially when we get McDonald’s on late nights. Thank you for pushing me and thank you for reading the stories I sent you.
Nick: Thank you for joining The Hatchet and making sure we spent time together on Sundays. I won’t lie — it was strategic, but when I put you up for the job, I knew you would kill it. Thank you for putting up with my bullshit. Let’s buy a lot of art, let’s buy some bulldog puppies and let’s travel the world together.
To my family: Thank you for supporting me whenever I needed it, and thank you for being the best material I could ever ask for. Emery, kill it in college and don’t join the newspaper.