Ellie Smith: Reality is greater than fiction

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Each year, departing 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.

In third grade, I heard the word “journalist” for the first time. Right then and there, I decided that’s what I wanted to be. I knew it had to do with writing and I owned a journal, so I figured I’d be pretty good at it.

In high school, I found out that journalists exclusively write about real life. They don’t get to make up their stories. I was quietly embarrassed that I had gone six years telling anyone and everyone I was going to be a journalist when I grew up without really knowing what it was. And I was disappointed that journalists don’t make up the characters and plots they write about. For some reason, though, I stuck with saying I wanted to be a journalist.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I grasped journalism – its style, ethics and importance. When I did begin to truly comprehend journalism, I also understood there was a reason I had blindly stuck with it for so long: Real-life stories are beautiful.

It is The Hatchet where I discovered that reality is greater than fiction. I was assigned articles about fraternities, sustainability and faculty affairs, and for as mundane or as wonky as those subjects seem, I saw a glimpse of vulnerability in each person I interviewed and felt a sense of importance in each sentence I wrote. As I worked my way up at The Hatchet, I wrote and edited hundreds of stories, feeling that same sense of excitement and privilege each time. Some of those stories were about things I couldn’t have dreamt up, but that were fascinating and had impacts on real people.

The art and science of journalism itself that I learned showed me the power of and need for real stories. But what really taught me that real life is dazzling and delicate in its own right were the people I worked with and experiences I had at The Hatchet.

Some moments at The Hatchet weren’t glamorous or even the least bit enjoyable, but they were all real. The lump in my throat and pit in my stomach were real when I learned that everyone doesn’t like me all the time, that ethical calls are tough and that independent student journalism is struggling. But those real-life, hair-tearing moments were accompanied by moments of genuine joy and pride that I had never before experienced – and those were because of the people I was surrounded by.

The characters at The Hatchet were exactly what my story needed. They were caring, wildly funny, dogged and spunky in ways I could not have thought up. They – and the people who supported my fast-paced, intense student journalism journey – are what remind me that the people I encounter are much rounder than characters I could fabricate.

I feel a bit hesitant as I move on to new real-life experiences because I’m not sure any chapter could be as challenging and rewarding as mine at The Hatchet was. But I trust that the lessons I learned and people I met will encourage me to embrace trying, stunning realities, no matter where my story takes me.

Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Brianna, Chloe and Mel: Thank you for putting your faith in a quiet freshman with big dreams. Your trust allowed me to trust myself, which is how I wound up where I am now. You encouraged me and helped me find my passions at The Hatchet. Mel: I hope I took good care of your beloved academics beat. I care about faculty affairs and governing documents because of you.

Zach: Although it’s been a year since you graduated, I still expect to see you sitting on the EIC office couch whenever I walk in. I, and a lot of other people, cannot imagine my Hatchet experience without you. As soon as I joined staff, you learned my name, joked around with me and made me feel like part of the group – and that was so important. Thanks for everything, and you’re welcome for the Snapchats of my dog.

Brandon: We go way back. You were the seasoned pro at Colleen’s reporter meetings my freshman year, you trained me as a research assistant and we ate popsicles at our place of employment together last summer. Your ridiculousness coupled with your focus as a copy editor taught me that The Hatchet can be both work and play: I thank you for that, because I don’t know if I would have made it through without a bit of that mindset.

Jeanine: You are the OG culture queen and continue to be royalty in my eyes. You’re independent, honest and compassionate – three things every human should aspire to be. Thanks for rooting for The Hatchet this year and for sitting next to me in class.

Grace: You’ve been told a million times that people think of you when they see Cate Blanchett, Rihanna and Diet Coke. Of course, I associate you with those people and things too, but I’ve found myself missing you most this semester when I need a dose of cynicism and a calming presence in the townhouse. Thanks for making the culture section great when you were editor. I hope you’ve learned lots and had fun abroad, and I’ll see you anywhere but the E Street Starbucks next year.

Jacob: Thanks for being my friend even after all those board meetings, including the one when I cried. You are a good egg. I owe you endless Deli sandwiches.

Vol. 114: You are beginning an exciting chapter in your stories. Give yourself to your jobs: You will be some of the hardest working students on campus, but it will be worth it. Make sure to leave some time to get to know the characters.

Emma, Colleen & Max: You three joined staff at a bit of an awkward transition time, but you all jumped right in and became part of the team. Seeing your shining faces and genuine enthusiasm encourages me about what’s to come for The Hatchet. Colleen: Take good care of the academics and mental health beats, and please write about poop whenever you possibly can.

Cort: You’re a ray of sunshine. Thanks for going to Faculty Senate meetings with a smile. I hope that in your news editor retirement you will still sometimes be Cort Carlson, Reporting Live.

Jake & Kellie: You both add some spice to The Hatchet and have grown the video section over this volume. Your creativity, honesty and skill were valuable, and I couldn’t imagine this semester without you both. Have amazing adventures abroad.

Irene: I heard all of your quiet sarcastic comments – and I’m so glad I did because they made me laugh, often when I needed to most. You are a smart lady, and I am glad The Hatchet has given you a medium to voice your opinions. Keep the ops section sassy.

Catherine: You are a Hatchet mainstay and a real team player. You’ve racked up hundreds of bylines across sections, and I loved seeing your name at the top of every story you wrote – freshman year, when you were my reporter and this volume. I wish you infinite luck and opportunities to try and review yummy food.

YBG & Anna: Design is an eclectic crew, and it wouldn’t be without you two. I appreciated that you both had strong opinions on designs – even when it meant extending prodo. Your commitment to and enthusiasm for design (as evidenced through your Slack channel) improved the section this year, and I look forward to seeing the heights you lift it to next year. Never forget that ~*~graphic design is my passion~*~

Emily: A couple of months ago you told me you wanted to meet up because you wanted to talk about something, which is usually code for a staff member quitting. But you did not quit. In fact, you had a well-thought-out plan for an interesting event The Hatchet could co-host. You have outstanding initiative and work ethic – not to mention a fire Bitmoji. I can’t wait to follow The Hatchet on every form of social media and smile (and sometimes smash that RT) because I know you’re the busy bee behind the posts.

Olivia & Sam: You two make team photo fun – a fiesta, if you will. I loved seeing the ways your quirky crew worked together, and I was nearly always impressed with the results. You are both talented photographers and editors, and you’re going to propel team photo forward in Vol. 114. Sam: It was a long time coming for you to join staff, and you fit right in as soon as you did. You are an incredible photographer and entertainer, and I’m happy we got to know each other better. Olivia: I feel now is the time to reveal that I told Dan to ask you to interview for a photo editor position last year. I’m so thankful you went for it because your skilled photography and constant kindness made this volume better. You’re going to kill it as photo editor.

Matt: I can confidently say only three things I know about you, because you won’t let me know much else: You have red hair, you could ask a hypothetical question about any subject and you were just the guy for the contributing sports editor position this volume. It was a privilege to watch as you developed into a more efficient and confident writer and editor throughout the year. Keep asking questions and listening to the answers, and have a ton of fun in the heart of the action along the way.

Elise: When you were one of my reporters, you told me you were going to be an editor. Your determination has not faded one bit since. I couldn’t imagine a better student life editor throughout this nutty year. I beamed whenever a student told me how much they loved being interviewed by you because I got to say, “I love Elise too.” Keep up the hard work, eat a full meal and you’ll go far.

Sera: When I became an assistant news editor, I was determined to find my little – someone who was hardworking, a good writer and, preferably, could share a closet with me. I was beyond excited when I found you were all of that and more. I am thankful you remained on staff throughout this volume because you are a gem of a person and we all were lucky to have you around. Have a tres lovely time in Paris – you deserve it.

Justine: I looked back through my Google Drive to remember your first assignment as my reporter, and I found an expert interview transcription from September 2015. The document includes the expert’s full name and title, a link to his bio, questions you asked and his complete answers in quotes, some of which you highlighted. I think getting shared on that doc was when I fell in love with you. From that first assignment to assistant copy editor to metro editor, your commitment has been incredible. Plus, you are a pure joy. Take breaks and don’t burn out – The Hatchet survives on people like you.

Avery: Sometimes being EIC is isolating, but you always made me feel connected to staff. Chatting and going places with you was a pleasure because you are funny and a great conversationalist. You are also a quiet yet confident leader who made reporters and other staff members comfortable. I hope to soon read your punny ledes in other publications and experience your Midwestern niceness outside of 2148 F St.

Robin & Victoria: I’ll be frank: I’ve always been a little afraid of you two because you both are unwavering in your opinions and never afraid to tell it like it is. We should all be more like that, though. You upped The Hatchet’s cool factor and made being on staff and in the townhouse fun. Robin: We grew up together in the news section – from nerve-wracking budgeting sessions to front-page stories. Thanks for liasing this semester. Victoria: You are a social media rockstar. Thank you for the boton of my heart for writing quippy tipsheets and scheduling posts like a champ.

Andrew: I’m not sure if your outstanding reporting and writing should be credited to talent or hard work – regardless, they’re fabulous. I’m thankful you found your way on to staff last year and again after you went abroad. You have a tough job next volume, but I am endlessly confident in your ability to lead a strong news section.

Tyler: You are one of the most committed members of staff – from design editor to research assistant to WordPress guru, you have supported every section in some way. I’m even more glad than you are that your position wasn’t eliminated with the new website’s launch. Do good work next volume, pal.

Blair: I have always thought you were effortlessly cool, confident and accomplished. Thank you for strengthening the video section and for letting me live with you last summer. And I hope you remember that the sushi cat Hatchet Secret Santa gift was all my idea (sorry, Matt).

Halley: I’m not the first to say it, but your positivity is absolutely infectious. Video budgeting came in the middle of long prodo days, but you were always able to brighten my evenings. Thanks for taking good care of your video babies and for running to the townhouse to edit at odd hours. Keep lighting up rooms wherever you go.

Melissa S.: I want to start this with my deepest apologies for making you take that history class this semester. Now that’s out of the way, thank you for being a phenomenal copy editor and friend. I appreciate your calm approach to answering my headline G-Chats and late-night top-of-the-page questions. You are an awesome woman, and I am eager to one day say “I knew her when…”

Liz: You stepped in and put on the culture queen crown when we needed you most. You have led the section with poise and incredible organization this semester, and I am thankful every day that you were ready to take on this tough job. I enjoyed being your editor AND your friend, and I’m definitely going to hold you to that J. Crew discount.

Jacqueline: Multiple people have said you were one of their greatest teachers at The Hatchet, and that’s no different for me. When I first joined staff, you taught me that being a news editor is hard work and that the newsroom can be really fun. When you were my senior news editor, you taught me about faculty governance and editing. This year, you held me accountable and taught me that every good cop needs a bad cop. The Hatchet wouldn’t be the institution it is without people who are as dedicated as you are. Thanks for teaching us all that.

Nathan: You have made me cry happy tears on more than one occasion. Last spring you confidently told me you could build The Hatchet a new website, and I never for a second doubted you. You made this volume great, not only because you did successfully launch that site, but because of your constant positivity, kindness and hard work. Thank you for responding to even my craziest text messages and for never laughing at my lack of tech vocab. I can’t wait to see you take The Hatchet to infinity and beyond.

Zach/Zachariah/Zachy-poo/Tyler: Last week I announced that my hottest take is that the EIC-design editor relationship is the most beautiful one of all. But maybe I say that just because I have very much enjoyed spending every Sunday night working with you. I was prepared for the worst whenever you appeared in the EIC office or said, “Uh, Ellie…” but you took every setback in stride and remained cool as a cucumber. You were incredibly committed to this volume – to the point that your family came on summer vacation to D.C. so you could design the CI guide – and I could never thank you enough. Good luck in China and Uganda, and I’ll see you in line at Chipotle next spring.

Melissa H.: No one has ever stunned me with their chutzpah in quite the same way you did when I met you at the end of freshman year. And you have been just as fiery every day since. You have also proven to be understanding, cool under pressure and resilient. Vol. 114 is very lucky to have you around. I don’t want to lose track of you, so let’s start that Jewish-Christian couples book club soon.

Mark: A lot of people on staff probably know you as the cool sports editor who is always wearing a Rangers hat, drinking Dunkin’ Donuts and running late to staff meetings. I am lucky to also know you as a sharp reporter, near-perfect writer and incredibly considerate human being. I never worried about the sports section for a second with you at the helm. Even though you didn’t give me my One Shining Moment as a sports reporter, you’re still a stand-up guy. *dab*

Eva: You once introduced yourself as The Hatchet’s “hypeman” to my reporters, and I couldn’t think of a better way to describe how you’ve embodied your role here. But I am also incredibly lucky that you have been, not only The Hatchet’s, but my hypewoman throughout this volume. When I didn’t know how to solve a problem or didn’t think I had the guts to do hard things, you were there to encourage me, comfort me and send me memes – even when you were having A DayTM. You put your heart into everything you do, and I so admire that. I’m glad you’ll be in D.C. next year so you can teach me more about brunch and the Kardashians.

Lillianna: Seeing you interact with Vol. 114 staff these past few weeks has confirmed that you are going to be a kick-ass editor in chief. You’re personable and fun-loving but tough when you need to be. I can guarantee you that this will be a beyond crazy year, but make sure you take some time to be proud of yourself. I’m already very proud of you, shadow.

Abbie & Nadine: Even though you were not directly involved in my experience at The Hatchet, you two have influenced the person I am. You both have been inspirations to me in the ways you stick to your convictions and are unabashedly yourselves. Thank you for teaching me how to be a friend by being friends. I’m sure we will set sail somewhere as exotic as the Baltic Sea again soon.

Carlee & Lydia: Our friendship came before I found The Hatchet. You are my home at GW. You have proven to be the two strongest young women I know, and I am honored to be a member of this trio. I promise to be around for bike rides, sunset club and Flavors of India our senior year.

Colleen: It all started with an email I got two-and-a-half years ago from Colleen Murphy telling me I was accepted as a Hatchet news reporter. How could I have known then that you would become not only my editor but my mom, sensei, twin, role model and one of my best friends? You told me in your 30 last year that it was an honor to be compared to me – I can’t think of a greater honor than being compared to someone as interesting, kind and tenacious as you. Thank you for putting your trust in me at The Hatchet and when deciding what to buy at Gap. Let’s hang out Sunday.

Ryan: I remember the exact moment during one of Colleen’s (mom’s) reporter meetings in the townhouse basement when I thought, “I want Ryan to be my friend.” I’m so glad my wish came true. You have been a loyal staff member and an even more loyal friend. I can honestly say this paper and I wouldn’t have made it through the volume without your unwavering support and hard work. Your direction and devotion are invaluable. I can’t wait for all of our gossip sessions and memories to come at 16 Snows Court and beyond – maybe someday while wearing matching Hermes belts.

Dan: You, most of all, taught me that the people this life are greater than who I could dream up. You were there for me with a smile, and often a coffee, each day this year, no matter how stressed I was or how grouchy I decided to be. You also led a strong photo section and were one of the most reliable staff members week-in and week-out. Thank you for being an incredible problem solver and loyal supporter. I can’t wait to spend our Sundays eating donuts and sitting in parks waiting for golden retrievers to pass by. “I look into your eyes and the sky’s the limit” – love you.

Mom, Dad and Campbell (+ Daisy, Hero and Maddy): My biggest fear coming to college wasn’t what most kids’ probably is: It was that I wouldn’t be as good of friends with my parents and brother anymore. Thankfully, I have only felt our bond strengthen over the past three years. You each have helped me enormously in your own ways – talking for hours, sending me advice emails and making me laugh from miles away – as I found my place at college and later worked my way through my EIC tenure. Thank you for believing in me, challenging me and loving me. You have taught me that family is the realest, greatest gift. I love you all very much.


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