Thank you for reading our content and supporting the work we do. As editor in chief of The Hatchet, I edit every piece of content produced by our almost-200-person staff and serve as President of Hatchet Publications, Inc. The Hatchet is the only editorially and financially independent newspaper at The George Washington University and is the second-oldest newspaper in the nation’s capital. The Hatchet is one of the nation’s top award-winning student publications and boasts Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni. Despite continued journalistic success, The Hatchet has faced financial obstacles in recent years and I wanted to inform readers about our situation.
Six years ago, The Hatchet’s Board of Directors decided to purchase our F Street townhouse for several reasons: The subsidized lease with the University was about to expire and Foggy Bottom market-rate rents were not affordable. Low interest rates, a recovering housing market and early donations helped members of the Board feel confident about the investment.
The townhouse, located at 2148 F St., doubled the space for The Hatchet’s journalists, designers, programmers and business staff from our previous location. However, despite national awards and continued success of the student staff and journalism produced, The Hatchet has slowly lost its financial footing. National advertisers began a precipitous pull from college media, revenue loss meant The Hatchet could no longer afford a full-time business manager and our nascent fundraising arm was unable to raise the sums required to sustain a million-dollar newsroom. The Hatchet, in just a few years, went from overseeing a $500,000 operating budget to one just one-quarter that size. The Board has worked hard with donors, the University and the staff of previous volumes to make this townhouse a reality for future generations of Hatchet staff. But it has been unable – either through advertising or fundraising revenue – to bear the costs of the townhouse.
This week, the Board of Directors sent out a letter to our alumni informing them that we are seriously considering selling the townhouse and moving to a new location. The Hatchet is now making one final call to our alumni and community supporters. We need $100,000 to buy one more year in the townhouse, and $750,000 to secure it permanently. If we aren’t able to raise those sums, we will sell the townhouse and are examining other options for a new space. We are considering a move to a University-provided space – though this would in no way jeopardize The Hatchet’s independence or affect the work we do.
This news comes as a grave disappointment to many — including to the Board. But we ultimately have one duty: to guarantee the long-term financial and editorial security of The GW Hatchet. And if that means course-correcting by selling our assets or renegotiating on-campus space with the University, then the Board will do so without hesitation. If we aren’t able to raise the funds for the townhouse, then all donations will go toward our operating budget.
I was elected editor in chief of Volume 114 this year. Personally, I have not known The Hatchet without this townhouse. I have built a community of friends here, written stories that have made a difference in that newsroom and decided that journalism is the career I want to pursue all because I decided to apply to be a Hatchet reporter three years ago. This is true of so many alumni and current staff members. Looking back at my three years at The Hatchet, I know that it wasn’t the townhouse that made the experience. It was the people I met, the skills I learned and the future I built.
The Hatchet’s commitment to powerful and independent student journalism remains uncompromising. Regardless of the end outcome, the Board and the staff are committed to the editorial independence of the newspaper and to pursuing the stories important to our community and to you, the reader. While financial matters are urgent, preserving the editorial and journalistic mission of the organization, is, and will always remain, our mission and priority.
The Board and staff of The Hatchet are greatly appreciative of everyone who has donated their time, services and money to this effort. And we thank all of our loyal readers for the support over the years. Although this situation is disappointing for many, the Board and the staff are working closer than ever with alumni, the University and business leaders to ensure The Hatchet remains editorially and financially independent and successful. Although this may not be what we’d hoped for, our location will not affect our reporting and the work we do for the community.