Many newspapers, including national, local and student papers, have editorial boards that weigh in on the biggest news stories in their publication each week. The Hatchet is no different.
But editorial boards are confusing. News is supposed to be objective, so many people don’t understand what the purpose of an editorial board is or how it fits into the structure of a newspaper. The Hatchet’s editorial board, a part of the opinions section, has the job of taking an official stance for the newspaper on various issues. We operate completely independently from the newsroom, so news editors do not take part in discussing or writing the staff editorial and remain objective.
Taking an official stance for the newspaper can be challenging. And we cannot do it without being informed.
Every week our opinions editor, Renee Pineda, and contributing opinions editor, Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, evaluate the top news on our campus and across the country to determine what topic the group will discuss for the week. There are a lot of factors that go into our decision, but the main goal is always to spark a conversation and provide a meaningful, well researched slant on a topic that affects students.
This year, we looked to national headlines on topics like gun violence and urged the University to re-evaluate its safety procedures to prepare for an active shooter situation in the weeks after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. We also tackled campus hot topics like food insecurity, and called for the University to make more moves to support students.
In addition to news that pops up throughout the year, one of the most important roles the editorial board is tasked with is choosing candidates to endorse and referendums to support during Student Association elections. The Hatchet has greater access to the candidates than most students, so the editorial board uses the opportunity to express what we like and dislike about each candidate’s platform, after meeting with them and asking them questions.
When assembling this year’s editorial board, we aimed to convene staff members with the most diverse perspectives possible from our slate of editors. The group is made up of editors from different sections, including managing editor Matt Cullen, design editor Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, culture editor Matt Dynes and sports editor Barbara Alberts.
Even hailing from states like California, Nebraska and Florida, growing up in different socioeconomic backgrounds, coming from varying racial backgrounds and studying majors from English to international affairs – we aren’t as diverse as the rest of our student population. This means we know we can’t perfectly embody an opinion that is best for every student on campus, but we do our best to think about the broader community and supplement our personal experiences with extensive research.
Getting a group of such diverse people together in one room to discuss our opinions can be challenging. We do not always agree. In fact, we often don’t agree. Chances are, the opinions you see printed here week after week won’t be the most extreme, because we have trouble all taking the same hard stance on an issue. This can be frustrating for us, but it means that the solution we come to is realistic, and reflects the needs of many types of students.
During our meetings each week, we have dozens of small and large disagreements, but it’s worth it because the conversation leads to an opinion that is well vetted.
We know we are not experts on everything, so we gather for discussion after a few days of research into the week’s topic. We typically look at how our peer schools – a group of colleges across the country assembled for comparisons – approach problems, as well as national data, historical precedent at GW and other policies or related information.
Our Editor in Chief Liz Provencher sits in on our meetings to provide context and be sure we have all of our facts straight as we debate, but does not offer her viewpoint on the issue at hand.
Publishing a staff editorial every week is meant to encourage conversations about topics that students, faculty and the Foggy Bottom community should be paying attention to.
Our topics provide a student perspective on issues, and administrators listen. Sometimes change on campus follows a move we pushed for in a staff editorial, and we can’t help but think some of these changes are partially because we have the ear of administrators on campus. After we called for leaders at GW to meet with graduate students who have been trying to unionize, the group landed the meeting they had been asking for just three days later. Because of this, we don’t take our role lightly and knowing that we might have an impact means that we always do our best to be thoughtful with our work.
Fostering discussion is the ultimate goal of all of our staff editorials. Publishing a staff editorial every week is meant to encourage conversations about topics that students, faculty and the Foggy Bottom community should be paying attention to.
But, our opinion isn’t meant to be the end-all-be-all. We can’t possibly represent the opinion of all students, so as you read, we urge you to challenge us and disagree with us. The Hatchet publishes op-eds and letters to the editor from outside contributors throughout the year and we want to hear what you have to say.
We hope this is the beginning of a conversation and that as your four years at GW fly by, you’ll look to the editorial board for a human angle on the most important news on our campus.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Renee Pineda and contributing opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of managing editor Matt Cullen, design editor Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts and culture editor Matt Dynes.