Melissa Schapiro: More than a home for journalists

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

From the time you meet me, it’s pretty clear that I’m a part of The GW Hatchet. And that I love it. It’s taken up the vast majority of Sundays ever since I officially joined staff in the fall of my sophomore year, it’s been the culprit behind numerous 3 a.m. weekday bedtimes, it’s where I’ve had some of the best I-really-gotta-pull-myself-together belly laughs and it’s where I’ve made some of my closest friends. If I can’t make it to literally any event, you can probably blame The Hatchet.

But it took a little bit of an existential crisis to get here. By the middle of my freshman year, I – the gung-ho journalism major and aspiring news editor for The GW Hatchet – had realized that I did not want to be a journalist. The writing and interviewing I loved – that wasn’t the issue – but I just knew that the reporter lifestyle was not for me.

As I watched my incredibly talented colleagues at The Hatchet run all over this city chasing down interviews and poring over municipal documents for hours on end, I was filled simultaneously with amazement at their dedication and a realization that I would never quite get everything out of the work that they did. That’s when the panic set in. Would I be able to find a home here? I kept writing, but was it even worth it?

When I changed my major to Political Communication, the self-doubt got worse – I mean, I was basically a fraud. Journalists and media relations people have a tricky – and sometimes straight-up adversarial – relationship, and here I was singing the praises of independent! student! journalism! one day and interviewing for communications internships the next. Would any of my fellow Hatcheteers, who were winning national journalism awards and nabbing superstar summer gigs at top-tier news organizations, catch on to the fact that I wasn’t really one of them?

All of this slowly started to change when I became a Hatchet research assistant. Even though I’d been a part of the paper for a year by that point, taking the research assistant job and “joining staff,” as we somewhat confusingly call it, led me to spend a lot more time in the townhouse surrounded by all things Hatchet.

I’m always most comfortable when I can go into a new situation armed with all the facts, fully prepared. While joining The Hatchet was most certainly not that, being a research assistant allowed me to learn a ton of information – quickly! – that helped me to find some common ground with this intimidating, loud, yet hilarious new group of people that I so wanted to be a part of but felt like I never quite could.

Before long, I too was able make wisecracks about this or that administrator, or join in on those maybe-sometimes-facetious rants about the Student Association, or – on a more wholesome note – see just to what extent this paper was a labor of love. I was starting to crack the code.

Maybe I wasn’t cold-calling 20 endowment management experts or chasing UPD officers down F Street every day, but I was building up a ridiculous amount of institutional University knowledge and claiming a much bigger stake in what happens at this school. More than that, though, I was finding solidarity with the reporters and editors who brought all of that knowledge to life in impactful stories and editorials that start conversations and sometimes bring about real, tangible change on this campus. And, as the elaborate flow chart on our basement whiteboard will tell you, once you’re “Hatchet friends” with someone, it’s basically just a matter of time until you’re real-world friends (or, at the very least, “comrades”).   

It’s funny to realize that I used the actual work of The Hatchet as my way to connect with the people, because now it’s the people who represent my continued ties to the work. While I will forever be a grammar nerd, and catching a misplaced comma in the 11th (or, let’s be honest, 13th) hour gives me a kind of indescribable joy that probably only a fellow copy editor could ever understand, that’s only a part of the equation. The other, and – to be honest – bigger, reason I love my job here is the writers, designers, photographers, videographers and everyone else that makes this dark townhouse that’s surely seen better days feel like home.

Even though I complain now and again about not having a ton of extra time on my hands, I know I’ll miss it all like hell when it’s over. I’ll miss rehashing my Saturday nights every prodo with the members of THE Copy Desk as we huddle around our far-too-crowded table in the very back corner. I’ll miss being able to yell out “Who wants food?” and immediately having four lunch buddies. And I’ll even miss having to rearrange my chair every 10 minutes because of course I picked the spot that blocks everyone’s route to the bathroom. We said it so often during our move this year that I started to roll my eyes, but it’s true: The Hatchet isn’t the building – It’s all of us.    

And these people who’ve made my Hatchet experience? Turns out they’re not all aspiring journalists, either. This paper has a way of becoming a home for people with a diverse array of academic and professional interests (shoutout to the multiple philosophy majors in this group of graduating Hatchet seniors). What brings us all together is not where we see ourselves in five or 10 or even 30 years, but the fact that we pour everything we have into this paper and become each other’s best friends along the way. It just took a little time – and a minor freakout or two – before I realized that part.

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Zach M: Even though you have bad New York baseball opinions, I’ll always be grateful for how welcoming and friendly (probably not words you’re used to hearing about yourself, huh?) you were to me when I first joined staff. I’m still amazed by how you knew everything about this paper, and the fact that no crisis ever seemed beyond your ability to handle. I love seeing your name in Politico every day, but more than that I love how you haven’t forgotten The Hatchet despite all the cool things you’re doing in the real world. I won’t be copy-editing your Hatchet Alumni Association emails anymore, but you can bet I’ll always read them.

Brandon: I put an end to your tradition of charging people for copy mistakes, and then I removed all of your godforsaken Libertarian decor, but I hope that, despite all of that, I still managed to make you proud. Your passion for copy, and for making sure that every single line is just right, is admirable and something that I frequently think back to when it’s 2 in the morning and I sorta-kinda just want to go to bed. Thank you for passing the torch.

Eva: I got shuffled around a lot when I was a news baby, but you were by far my favorite editor I ever had. I’ll never forget how you texted me the morning of my first front-page story to tell me how proud you were and how I better share it on every single social media platform possible. You’re such a positive force in this world (even when the universe gives you A DAY) and I’m so glad I’ve still gotten to see you around this year. Hit me up when you move to New York!

Ellie: To be honest, I was pretty upset when you told us you weren’t staying for Volume 114 because I wasn’t sure you’d want to stay friends with Hatchet people. I’m so glad I was wrong! I’ve loved filling you in on all the Hatchet gossip this year and attending your wonderfully themed parties (Let it Snows Court impressed a lot of people, in case you didn’t already know). Whether we manage to masterfully pull of this 4-bedroom roommate situation next year or not, I can’t wait to conquer NYC with you. Let’s find another bar to frequent on a very sporadic basis so another confused waiter can mistake us for regulars.

Justine: You are one of the most genuine and hardworking people I’ve ever met. I was definitely sad when the news team took you away from our copy desk, but I had no doubt that you’d kill it as metro editor. The work you did to strengthen that section is incredible. You deserve a ton of credit for that, but you also deserve credit for taking care of yourself and stepping away when it came time.   

Ryan: I’ve really missed having you on staff these past few months, but I’ve loved getting to spend more time with you this year outside of The Hatchet. You have a way of being spot-on about everything (and everyone!) and knowing exactly what to say to make someone feel better. I’m going to miss running into you around Foggy.

Emma: You’ve pretty much been my other half this year – perhaps best evidenced by the fact that when I got hotseated and gave your name as the member of staff I’d be chained to for 24 hours, they made me change my answer because “you guys already are.” Thank you for getting up with me for yoga, listening to me vent about unfriendable men on Facebook, dedicating far too much space in your planner to the events of my birthday, providing some quality drunk Snapchat content and perhaps most importantly…for agreeing to live with me after graduation!!! I’m fairly sure we made that decision after two hours of bottomless brunch at that place that just keeps giving you a new personal pitcher and therefore doesn’t allow you to count how many mimosas you’re actually having, but that’s fine. You’ve been my cheerleader this year at the times when I’ve needed it most, and for that I’m endlessly thankful. I know this next chapter of closet-sized housing and PB&J sandwiches as meals is going to be an ~interesting~ one, but there is no one else I’d rather have as a roomie through it all!

Barbara: I’ve had so many conversations with people on staff where we wonder when you’ll realize that you’re way too cool for all of us. You somehow haven’t gotten there yet, and I am so grateful for that. I’m going to miss the way you call everyone “love” and “gal,” and I don’t think I’ll ever again have someone in my life who uses “doohickey” nearly as much as you do. Thank you for being one of the cheeriest people I’ve ever met and for brightening up prodo every Sunday. You’re always able to laugh at yourself (and me), but at the same time you’re such a genuine friend – not to mention a badass reporter. I’m so excited for you to lead sports next year and I know you’ll absolutely kill it. Don’t forget about me when you’re off conquering D.C. senior year and please please some crash on our couch any time – We’ll have prosecco and goat cheese waiting!

Emily: Your adventures abroad this semester seem to have included several train trips without me, but I guess you’re forgiven. I’m so glad I got to have you as my travel buddy in France and Poland and through Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train line. I don’t know if there’s anyone else I could have survived the Hotel Malar staircase or bathroom with, or anyone else who is as willing to take 40 million photos of me as you are, even though the ones I take of you in return are admittedly of substantially lower quality. Now that you’ve #RushedSchapiro you’re welcome to hang out with the fam any time….and maybe Turt and I can even make it to hugging level one day??

Melissa: “Alright so you’re Melissa, you’re a Jewish senior political communication major minoring in journalism and you work for The Hatchet…now what about you?” “Um yes hi, every single thing she just said also applies to me.” We have a bizarre amount of things in common, but it makes for some pretty great Melissa² photos. Thank you for not thinking I was crazy when I stalked you on Facebook all because I saw you were friends with some girl I vaguely knew from camp, and for walking to Starbucks with me at CI when we were awkward pre-freshmen who didn’t know what to do before the org fair. I’ve always admired your determination and ambition, and I can’t wait to watch the NBC political show that I have no doubt you will one day anchor. I bet they’ll even let you go by Mel if you want to!

Andrew: Hey, remember that time we worked on our very first story together for weeks freshman year and then it got nixed? It’s a low-key miracle that we both made it onto staff after all of our cut stories and editor changes (was it us??) but I’m really glad we did. It’s been awesome watching you grow into your role as SNE, and getting to laugh through all of those late-night prodos. Thanks for listening to Emma and me that time we drunkenly burst into your apartment to tell you about our adventures.

Tyler: I’m a little disappointed our pretentious grammar podcast never became a thing, but I’m so grateful for the countless laughing attacks and Hatchet party shenanigans we’ve had together. From completely losing it over Wisey’s inability to deliver you red pepper crab soup week after week, to shattering wine bottles in a sketchy McDonalds at 1 a.m., to your endless ridicule of my soccer mom ways, you’ve been a fantastic friend on this paper and honestly someone I know I will miss all the time in my post-grad life. We’ve extensively covered my feelings that you’re not a “Philly person,” but if you ever feel like trying out New York you know where to find me.

Liz P: You somehow find a way to be a total boss on this paper who has everything under control – but also be everyone’s friend at the same time. You’re a ton of fun to be around, and your reporters (all 80 or whatever crazy amount you had!) are so lucky to have had you before you take on the world as EIC. Volume 115 is in fantastic hands with you at the top, and I promise that – should I ever find a copy error next year – I will NOT email you to tell you about it!

Lillianna: It took an embarrassingly long time of me being on the staff of this paper to realize that you are, in fact, the same age as I am. Between your writing and reporting chops, and the way you seemed to have a rapport with everyone at a time when I was still trying to match names and faces, I’ve always felt like you knew it all. I’m going to miss cracking up with you over those unpronounceable bands that somehow find their way onto the top of page 5 every week, but more than that I’ll miss plopping onto the couch in the EIC office and laughing about anything.

Matt D.: I don’t think I’ve after laughed as hard at the Hatchet townhouse as I did during your hotseat. You’re hilarious, unabashedly yourself and a friendly breath of fresh air for an over-stressed group like ours. I’m so glad you joined staff, and I know you’ll do a top-notch job as culture HBIC.

Irene: In a way you kind of had two sections to lead, and I’m so glad I got to be a part of one of them. Taking our jumbled, nonsensical ed board conversations and turning them into something resembling a coherent staff editorial cannot be easy. I know you’ll kill the law school game – wherever you decide to go.

Renee: Coming into any pre-established group is hard – and then being tasked with co-leading it has to be really tough – but you’ve made the transition to contributing opinions editor look like a piece of cake. You’re a lot of fun to have around during ed board meetings, and you’re never afraid to say what you think. I can’t wait to read next year’s staff eds.

Yonah: Sorry I didn’t understand your graphics half the time, but I always found them impressive and well beyond anything I could ever make. I always enjoyed our silly chats during prodo – thanks to Emily for dragging you onto staff!

Matt C.: I still don’t feel like I’ve 100 percent – or even like 30 percent – figured you out, but I do know that your dedication is incredibly impressive. There aren’t too many people who would both drive nine hours in one day to cover a basketball game in upstate New York AND learn the intricacies of University finance, but it’s things like that that make me sure you’re the perfect jack-of-all-trades to fill the managing editor role. Oh and, even though you apologized to me every prodo, your copy has always been pretty solid – Stop doubting yourself so much!

Olivia: Thank you for being such a sweetheart when it came to taking the photos for this 30. You were so generous with your time, even though you had an entire section to run as well as a new crop of newbies to train. It’s been great getting to know you better this year, and I know you’re going to continue to lead a stellar photo section in Volume 115.  

Sam: My first year on staff was the year you spent abroad, but I had heard all about the Legends of Hardgrove from Zach and I can say that you’ve lived up to the hype. For someone who’s never written a word for this paper, you’re a fantastic storyteller – and I hope one day I get to hear all about what I know will be some great times in Japan.

Kelly and Annie: So glad we have you guys to carry Copy into Volume 115! I’ve had so much fun on the copy desk these past few years, and I can’t wait for the two of you to make it your own. Follow your gut with every story and never be afraid to speak up when you think something isn’t right. No editor will ever enjoy having you point out their errors, but I can assure you they’ll all thank you for saving their butts (just ask Liz about that time we nearly published a story about children popping cherries)!   

Team News: Everyone talked about the “Young News Team” this year as if were a proper noun, but I always disagreed. Whether it was your work ethic, maturity or ability to distill an array of bureaucratic documents into comprehensible English, you always seemed wise beyond your years. We kind of call every section a “team” here, but you guys really seem like one — and I’ll always be rooting for you. Dani: You probably don’t remember this, but we once had a conversation about words we somehow cannot learn to spell and I told you one of mine was “privilege.” You went over it with me for a solid five minutes, and now every time I go to write it (correctly!) I think of you. Cayla: I secretly liked getting kicked out of the basement for photo meetings Sunday evenings because I knew there was a good chance I’d find you still in the newsroom watching ridiculous vine compilations or spewing the latest GW absurdities. I’m honestly not sure why you so often stayed late once your Hatchet work was done, but I’m glad you did.

Zach S.: The front pages have looked great this semester, but I think even more than your design skill I’m impressed by your endless patience. You never seemed fazed when someone would suggest rearranging the entire front at the end of prodo, but you also were never afraid to keep advocating your own ideas when they were important to you.  

SarahRoach: We’ve reached this odd point where there is only one Sarah on this paper, but you’ll always be SarahRoach. I find it hilarious that you didn’t realize Melissa H. and I were the same Hatchet crazies who talked your ear off at that Chinese food shindig, because we both worried for days after that we’d scared that adorable freshman away. So glad we didn’t! You’re a kick-ass writer, fun yoga buddy (you still have a month to come with Em and me again!) and all-around great human. Give yourself a break sometimes and don’t burn out (and PLEASE for the love of god pass geology) because this paper needs people like you.  

Merribitches, ESA fam, Carly, Sarah, Rebecca, Celeste and the ladies of 417: I’m really lucky to have made and kept so many friends here outside of The Hatchet, but of course that means I’ve missed a lot over the years. Thank you for never making me feel bad when I couldn’t make an Oscars or Super Bowl party, or insisted on scheduling brunch at 9 a.m., or showed up at your apartments to hang out and promptly whipped out my computer to edit a story. Your support not to mention your ability to remind me that there is a ton to chat about that doesn’t involve the melodrama of The George Washington University admin has been more valuable than you will ever know. I can’t promise I’ll ever stop being the girl who needs a Google calendar and five days of notice to make plans, but I can say that Sundays (and Tuesday nights… and Wednesday nights…) are looking a lot more open from here on out, and I can’t wait to see more of your beautiful faces.

Mom, Dad, Danny and Jake: Thank you for understanding every time I couldn’t take a call, and for putting up with me whenever I threw around GW jargon out of habit or sent you guys home early from a visit so I could make it to prodo. I’m so appreciative that you read every single article or blog I wrote freshman and sophomore year – even when they were about energy-efficient dorm lighting or some other equally boring topic – and shared your thoughts on countless staff editorials with me even when we disagreed. It meant a lot to watch you try to keep up with the current events on a campus that really had zero impact on your lives because you knew just how much they mattered to me. I’m incredibly lucky to have you all as a support system, and I hope that throughout these past four years – even beyond The Hatchet – I’ve made you very proud.

30

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.