Melissa Holzberg: Finding my voice

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

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, published in the final issues of the year.

In 7th grade, my English teacher had us keep journals. At first, the journals were supposed to be where we wrote about daily assignments, and reflected on longer term projects. But for me, that journal became my first foray into journalism.

Throughout that year, I spent class after class writing stories about a world I didn’t know. I wrote about little girls growing up to be news anchors, and women becoming president. This wasn’t a world I knew beyond what I saw on TV. But eventually I’d find that that journal would be the start of me finding my own voice.

For years, I told everyone around me that I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to teach young children how to read and write, and I wanted to inspire them to conquer their dreams. But I never took the time to figure out what my own dreams were. Slowly, I realized they weren’t to be in front of a classroom.

I looked up to my teachers, and my countless mentors through high school, and they encouraged me to write. It was early mornings in my high school’s publishing suite, and summers at sandy Long Island beaches reading the local newspaper where I realized I needed to find my own voice. I needed to do more than read about the stories of others, and watch as so many people conquered their dreams.

So I started researching. I looked up every newspaper at each dream college I was applying to. And when GW became the school, The Hatchet became my real dream.

As an over-enthusiastic freshman who could talk nonstop for hours, this organization forced me to not just have a voice, but to find what made mine different. I took my first real risk in journalism by joining the opinions team here at The Hatchet. I knew I was comfortable with telling other people’s stories. I knew I could write effectively and objectively. I had no idea I was capable of finding myself through writing, though.

For the first time, I wrote my stories. I questioned my political and religious identities, in hopes that maybe I could get others to feel comfortable to question their own. I found myself getting frustrated with this university, but truly believing I could do something to change it. For me, that was never going to be through student government. It was going to be through opinion journalism and advocacy. What I didn’t know was that while I was writing, I was becoming stronger. My voice had a purpose, and it wasn’t meant to be stuck in a journal at the back of a classroom.

That’s not to say every step along the way was easy. Being on this paper was both the most fulfilling and challenging aspect of my college career. I spent my nights fact-checking columns and editorials, even after others had, because I knew something I signed off on had the reputation of a century-old institution. I learned to receive pushback and rage from people who disagreed with me. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that not every comment needed a reaction.

But that’s what makes The Hatchet the perfect place to grow up. You’ll learn here, you’ll cry about things that go wrong, and you’ll laugh about things that anyone outside of our townhouse would never understand. Growing up isn’t as scary when you get to do it with people who have the same motivations and dreams as you do.

Thanks to the incredible characters that bookended my four years at The Hatchet, I was pushed on my views, and in turn my voice changed as I learned more. But it became the voice I have today. The incredible people at this newspaper made me a more reflective person, a better writer and editor, and a stronger woman. I’m grateful to know that I found my voice at a place as compassionate and amazing as this one.

Throughout my years on The Hatchet, the people have changed. Some have been rowdier than others, and some a bit harsher with their metaphorical red pen edits. But they’ve all become teachers to me, and just like those who mentored me through high school, they have gotten me through college.

I’m approaching the real world a bit more every day. But for the first time I’m feeling confident and ready because the little girl who hid stories in a notebook became the young woman who found her voice.

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

To those who shaped my Hatchet life –

Robin Jones Kerr: It wasn’t until I edited a piece of Ops content alone that I realized how fortunate I was to have you as my first editor. Thank you for always leading with compassion, and editing with kindness. You encouraged us to speak our minds, and never judged our opinions. Thank you for believing in a freshman with a big mouth and bigger dreams, I owe you a whole lot.

Justin: Sorry for copying you mercilessly. While our time on The Hatchet together was far too brief for my liking, it’s always been a joy to watch you succeed and I hope I go down in Hatchet history as yet another opinionated but beloved managing director. Also, wow, can you imagine if we worked at MTP at the same time? No? Me neither.

Sarah: You made Ops your baby, and it showed. It was an honor to work alongside you for a year. You cared so much about this paper, and you lifted our section from a place for feelings to a place for advocacy. I have always admired how you looked over each page on Sundays with precision, and wouldn’t back down on a staff ed or column topic without a fight. You taught me the importance of opinion journalism, and I wouldn’t be half the editor I am if I didn’t get to learn from you.

Vol. 112 Ed Board: Well, guys, I wouldn’t want to go to war with the SA with any other group of people. Your sassy selves inspired more confidence in me than I thought possible. Thanks for the endless spicy takes, the libertarian debates and the social media defense when people were ready to burn us. Y’all kept life fun, and I don’t think ed board was ever the same.

Brandon: There’s no one else I’d rather fight with on the third floor every Sunday than you. While I’m sure we annoyed our fair share of people, I don’t think I would know as much as I do about how the University is always coming after us if it weren’t for you. I’ve missed my last minute cartoon emails to you, thanks for the faceless blobs every other Sunday afternoon.

Sam LaFrance and Mark: You both made the third floor what it was. Thanks for the sports references, and the sacks of skin questions. Your legacies have lived well into Vol. 114, and I know there will be more hot seats to come where you are both happily name dropped.

Colleen: You wrote in your 30 that you were a bit nervous when I led my first ed board, and honestly the feeling was very mutual. Thank you for bringing me on to staff and seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I’ve always admired how you led this paper with grace, and made sure everyone’s voice was heard.

Zach: You didn’t join The Hatchet to change The Hatchet or to leave any specific mark, and that’s what makes you so damn special. You have single handedly shaped an institution for future journalists to meet their friends, have a home on campus and produce some amazing work. Thank you for always believing in every single person who walked into the townhouse, for teasing me for being from Commack, and for being an unabashedly insane Mets fan – I really think we’ve got it this year. You are the person people strive to be, and of everyone I’ve come across these four years, I hope I’ve made you proud to be an alum of this paper.

Eva: I hope by the time you’ve read this it hasn’t already been a day. Following you into this position wasn’t easy because I knew there was no way I could ever be as loved as you are. But I’ve had your voice in my head all year in the various odd places this job brought me to stay calm and just enjoy it. Thank you for encouraging me all last year that I was doing OK with ops, even when I thought I was losing it. And thank you for trusting me with this position, it’s certainly been a year.

Vol. 113 Ed Board: I tell any person who asks, or frankly doesn’t even ask, that you were all the best part of my college experience. We were a young ed board who gave a lot of graduating seniors pause, but I can’t thank you all enough for trusting me with your opinions, and letting me take a few risks. Our endorsement record sucks, but I wouldn’t want to be wrong with anyone else.

Ellie: I don’t even know what to say. You made me a better writer, editor and leader – but the best part is, I never knew you were doing those things until you weren’t at The Hatchet anymore. I’m so glad we never had the hostile Ops Editor/EIC relationship we were warned about, because becoming your friend has been an honor. I wish you weren’t leaving for New York, or as you say, the “Big Apple”, but I know you will accomplish amazing things. Thanks for it all.

Irene: I won’t lie, handing the Ops reins to you wasn’t easy. Not because you weren’t ready, or I had any fears you couldn’t do this job, but because it meant I was giving up a job I loved so much. Thank you for making Ops your baby this year, you’ve become an incredible writer and editor, and I can’t wait to see what you do in law school. There’s no one else I would want to tackle the SA with. Shwetha: Our time on staff together may have been short lived, but you, me and Irene started on Ops together, and it was such a pleasure to watch you become contrib. I know there are no limits as to where life will take you.

Renee: Someone has to sit me down and explain to me how my star baby is already the Ops editor of this paper. Renee, you have impressed me since our first ops meeting together. Editing your columns was always a breath of fresh air. You have a true talent, and I know you’re going to do amazing things with this section. Don’t ever stop fighting the good fight, and keep this university accountable. I know you can do it.

Sam Hardgrove: What can I say? I miss fighting with you over Christmas music during HALLOWEEN!!! I’m so glad I got to share the third floor with you for a year. You’ve brought light and humor to this paper, and often at times when it needed it the most. Thank you for always having a good comeback, the right remark when you edited photos during ops meetings and sticking around for a super senior year.

Tyler: When you joined ed board last year, I remember turning to Ellie and saying that we found our new Brandon Lee. But while you may have become a chief dissenter on editorial board, the spot on staff you’ve carved out is uniquely yours. You’re one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and I genuinely wish you wanted to go into journalism because the love and energy you put into this paper is awe-inspiring. I’m glad you’re sticking around D.C., because I don’t want to lose track of you.

Melissa: It’s not everyday you get to meet the carbon copy of yourself, and then realize that that person is actually so much cooler. Melissa, you are intelligent, hysterical and a friend I am proud to have. Thank you for the happy hours and the life talks – and especially for making sure I got through Entman’s class alive. You’re going to do amazing things in New York, and I can’t wait to come visit even if it means a five-floor walkup.

Matt Cullen: I’m not going to take this opportunity to roast you for being so secretive about everything in your life, but I will take this time to say that it’s no secret how much you love this paper. You’ve already decided to give countless hours to Hatchet, and that’s only going to increase next year, but I know you can do it. Enjoy being one of the senior most people on Ed Board, maybe you’ll finally get a staff ed on presidential administration numbering and banning Commencement.

Elise: The beauty of an undefined position is that it becomes yours immediately. Take risks this year, enjoy planning and sweating the details of the conference. Senior year goes by far too fast, but being the managing director will keep you anchored at the townhouse. I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

Cayla: You are a firecracker. The news team is in the perfect hands to succeed, and I know you’ll be one of the best senior news editors yet. I’m so proud of your resiliency, and I’m inspired by your dedication and talent.

Andrew: I think I can speak for everyone when I say we were so happy when you came back from abroad because we knew you’d be coming back ready to lead the news team brilliantly. I don’t have the right words to say how in awe I am of your commitment to journalism, and your dedication to your team. You’re going to be an incredible journalist, mostly because you already are one.

Liz: You are graceful, quick-witted and always a ball of fun, and that will make you an amazing EIC. Next year will be hard, but I know you know that already. Just remember to take a breath and look around at all you do, and be exceptionally proud. You have it in you, and I can’t wait to retweet and share all the work of Vol. 115.

Lillianna: Holy moly how did we get here? I’ll never forget the end of last year, sometime in May, sitting in the old townhouse with you and the two of us realizing that this was actually on us now. We made a good team, and that was hugely because of your dedication and love for this paper. This is just the start for you, and I can’t wait to one day get to tell people that I knew you when. Cheers, and bottoms up at Sunday brunches because you deserve it.

Vol 115: You get to hold the reins now, and you’re more than prepared to do it. If you put your heart into every article you write, every oxford comma you edit out and every extra hour you spend in the townhouse, this paper will pay you back tenfold. It’ll pay you in lifelong friends, mentors, teachers and some pretty wild stories. So many of you are at the start of your Hatchet experience, and while I’m incredibly jealous of the memories you’ll make, I promise you also have a network of alumni who are here to help. Baste one time too many, transcribe and then transcribe again, and enjoy every moment.

To those who kept me sane through it all –

Kiran, Camille, Kristina: I’m so glad my friendships with you three started before The Hatchet, and I’ll get to graduate with you three by my side. Thank you for your constant encouragement, thankless social media backup, and understanding why I could never go to brunch. I love you all.

Semple: You taught me everything I needed to know about journalism. Thank you for the early mornings, and earlier Saturday mornings, in high school. And thank you for making me realize that a blonde girl from Commack could conquer the world – as long as she had her bagel and coffee of course.

My Chi Omega fam: Wendy, you’ve defended me and this organization more times than I can count. Thank you for being the most amazing big I could have asked for, and always listening to the tapes during SA season. My sweet lil Sarah, while I hate that I’m ending my time at GW without you here, I’m so happy you came into my life sophomore year. Sorry I made you have your birthday brunch last year at 9 a.m. because I had a Hatchet meeting. Sarah and Charlotte, you two are the most dynamic duo I could’ve imagined. You’re both amazingly supportive and incredibly kind. Thanks for putting up with my Type A-ness, and for some reason still inviting me to things, sorry I won’t be leaving you two alone any time soon.

Mom, Dad and Sarah: The three of you have had to put up with a lot from me because of this paper. Thank you for never making me apologize for missing the holidays the last four years because weekend travel didn’t mesh with Hatchet (I promise this year’s the one I’ll be home for!!). The three of you never missed a column, blog or editorial I wrote or edited, and it means the world to me to have a family who doesn’t just accept the work I do, but respects it. Sarah, I promise I won’t do things that the internet hates me for anymore (maybe), Mom and Dad, I promise the next news organization I work for won’t get hated on by the government (maybe). I love you three, and I can’t wait to see you at graduation.

Gary: You didn’t need to drive me back to D.C. at 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings, but you did. You didn’t need to read every column or editorial I ever wrote, but you did. And you definitely didn’t need to listen to me rant about the SA, Title IX, pitches, or university politics, but of course, you did. You were my 1 a.m. call when I found out I’d be on this paper, and you were my 5 a.m. cryfest when things went to hell. I love you, I love you, I love you. Thank you for being my rock these four years. Here’s to forever (and ever).

-30-

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