Liz Provencher: No one tells you the microphone is heavy

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year. Journalists historically used “-30-” to signify the end of a story.

When you are standing at the edge of the stage about to sit down with some of the best journalists in the country, people give you advice and well wishes – but no one tells you the microphone is heavy.

At The Hatchet’s annual fall conference this year, the moderator for one of the panels didn’t show up. It was five minutes before we were set to begin and everyone was stressed. Nothing could be done at that point, so I would just moderate the panel.

It would be fine. I only had about a minute to make sure I knew how to pronounce the panelists’ names and grab a sheet of paper with their titles spelled out before I stepped up to the podium in front of hundreds of people.

It wasn’t so bad. I introduced myself, thanked everyone for coming and walked over to my chair at the center of the stage. I picked up the microphone that was prepared for me, but as soon as I began to speak, the words flowing out of my mouth quivered in the air. When I heard them, I immediately tried to focus and ease my mind. I corrected my speech, but it was too late. My body betrayed me and my hand was shaking uncontrollably.

I looked down at the microphone and felt its weight in my hand and thought, “How the hell could it be this heavy?” I locked eyes with a news editor sitting in the front row and her eyes doubled in size while she watched me quite literally shake in my shoes, and my hand launched into an even more noticeable shake.

My mind started racing. I had to figure out how I was going to stop shaking because I was sitting in front of hundreds of people and I am the boss and I am supposed to be confident and graceful and cool under pressure.

When I became editor in chief, people had endless pieces of advice, warnings and well wishes, but no one thought to warn me that the microphone would be heavy.

This job is fucking hard. Summing it up as just “hard” seems like an insult to the mounting pressure and endless to-do list this title drops on your chest and doesn’t stop prodding and reminding you of for an entire year.

When I became editor in chief, I was given the incredible gift of a microphone to tell important stories and make positive change, but that microphone has been heavy. It weighed down on me every single day as I made decisions that would affect myself, my staff and the greater community we serve.

It trembled in my hand when officials twice my age criticized my work or dismissed me as “combative” when I stood up for this institution.

There were weeks when I couldn’t seem to pry it from my hand long enough to have dinner with the distractions I thank below, and some days I couldn’t even put it down long enough to take a proper shower.

It was heaviest this week when I realized I only had a few days left in what I’m fairly certain is the best job in the world. I sat down to write this column dozens of times, and when I realized I could never sum up this experience in a few hundred or even a few thousand words, I felt the weight of this position one final time.

Being editor in chief tested me on a daily basis. It made me feel small and stupid one day and unstoppable the next. Serving in other positions on staff gave me some of my best friends and the fondest memories of my college career.

It sounds dramatic – and it probably is – but nothing has shaped me the way this 115-year-old institution has over the past four years, and I am endlessly grateful for that. The Hatchet taught me everything I know and made me everything I am.

It gave me a microphone and taught me that to make use of it, I needed to work hard, inspire others and hold this University accountable. It taught me that there are things more important than myself and whatever stupid thing I happened to be worked up over that day.

My time at The Hatchet also taught me that when the microphone gets heavy, you can push your elbow into the meat of your thigh or balance it on the arm of the chair you’re sitting in and you won’t look like a trembling idiot in front of hundreds of people.

Thank you to all of my thighs and arms of chairs. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Ellie: I will never forget sitting you down in Cava to tell you I was crazy enough to want this job. I was so nervous because you were one of the first people I told and when you were in this role, you set such a high bar for how to be a great EIC. Thank you for not being surprised. From hiring me to being my editor and friend, your confidence in me has made me believe in myself, and your support helped me get through this year. Now that I’m on the other side, I can’t wait to tweet snarky things about the University alongside you.

Lillianna: You made this job look easy, but I also know you put everything you had into this paper during the year you were editor in chief. I am lucky to have had you as a model for how to do this job well and work hard. Thank you for everything you did to prepare me to lead the paper.

Robin: When you took me under your wing as your star Metro reporter, all I wanted to do was impress you. Thank you so much for believing in me and being the first person to make me feel at home at The Hatchet.

Tyler: When I think back to my happiest times in the townhouse, nearly all of them revolve around you. You made me fall in love with this place and the people that run it – with and without The New York Times’ questions. This year, you tore open a sugar packet on the street to help birds who needed help pecking through the paper and you ran the business office and re-joined the board to help your friend who needed help picking up all the pieces.

Eva: SOS. I’m so happy I sent you an email with that subject line on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016 because it led to three years of one of the friendships I value most in the world. I have been so grateful to have a friend who both understands this job but can also give me an outside perspective when I had 94872837 problems this year. You were so supportive of me, you even turned yourself into a goddamn meme tweeting about SA drama and I cannot thank you enough.

Volume 116: You all have an incredible opportunity in front of you, and I hope you take full advantage of it. Many of you are brand new to staff and are probably wondering what next year will hold. As cheesy as it sounds, I can’t tell you exactly what this place has in store for you. If you do it right, The Hatchet will push your limits, demand your best and then ask for more, but it will make you 100 times better for it all while giving you the best friends and strongest journalism skills you could ask for.

Volume 115: I couldn’t have done this without every single one of you. No matter how long you were on staff or how much your job required of you each week, I hope you found value in your time here and know that I appreciate all that you did.

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Elise: You were the first person I talked to when we were both hired on staff. When you Facebook messaged me just to say hi and then asked if I wanted to go out to lunch, I was admittedly confused but it was foreshadowing for how great of a managing director you were this year. You planned one of the most successful conferences we’ve ever hosted and made me so proud. On top of that, you were always coming up with ideas to improve staff morale and remained dedicated to meeting with each person individually and making sure everyone was happy.

Arianna: You probably hate me for it, but I selfishly am so happy I never let you leave. You started an entirely new product to bring The Hatchet up to speed with other news publications while growing and improving the video section, and you should be so proud of yourself. I always appreciated your honesty and still laugh when I think about that one story about people from your hometown.

Renee: Past editors always talked about how difficult the EIC-opinions editor relationship can be, but I was lucky to have you. I always had so much fun during our hourlong budgeting meetings and loved watching you lead the editorial board, even though I had trouble keeping my opinions to myself at times. You are thoughtful and strong-willed, and the opinions section this year was better for it.

Olivia D and Zach: Somehow even after I kept you both up until 5 a.m. working and making sure every page was absolutely perfect, you both came up with a rhyming subject line in an email holding the PDFs. You are two of the most thoughtful people on staff, and I have appreciated your carefulness, creativity and dedication.

Leah: You have been an incredible anchor for the news team for the past two years. Whenever I caught glimpses of you teaching your reporters new skills, I was so impressed. You have all the makings of an incredible managing director and I am so excited to watch from afar as you lead this staff.

Meredith: In case you don’t remember, you were the news editor with the giant eyes in the front row. That look literally still haunts me today. But anyway, you are a light in the townhouse. I won’t harp on your crazy outfits because it is cliche at this point, but I hope you continue to remind staff that the beauty of this paper is that you can drunkenly record a podcast about love and still wake up the next morning to produce an award-winning newspaper. I’m sorry I let everyone roast you during nearly every hot seat this year.

Lauren: When I ran for editor in chief, I remember sitting down with a quiet research assistant who had dozens of ideas for social media and I was impressed. You’ve grown so much since then. As staff began to discuss positions for next volume and I heard whisperings about what everyone wanted to do, I was so happy you wanted to be managing editor. You have shown your dedication and proven that you are ready to test new ideas, make the paper more efficient and improve across all sections, and that is the energy that the ME needs to have.

Parth: I have been so impressed with you over the past few weeks. You won’t be surprised to hear that I think you have giant shoes to fill, but after watching you work alongside Cayla for the past few weeks, I know you’ll be a great SNE. I joked that you two get along well because you are both evil, but what I really meant is that you both have the toughness the job requires. Keep being careful even if it means you get grilled for how long it takes you to edit. Also, please continue hazing Sarah even after Cayla and I are long gone.

Kiran: When I hired you, I wasn’t sure if you would be the right fit. You looked a little fratty and The Hatchet doesn’t have the coolest reputation on campus, but I’m so glad you stuck around. You’ve shown me that you are thoughtful, smart and hardworking. I could always count on you to pull together a well-written column at the last minute, lob a dozen pitches at me during budgeting off the top of your head or lighten up a particularly heated ed board with a joke about certain administrators, and that combination of qualities will make you a great opinions editor.

Donna Bae: You and my smol are like two peas in a pod. I wanted to murder you both when you blasted the Hamster Dance in my office at 1 a.m. while I was trying to finish the newsletter, but you always put a smile on my face. You had a tough job this year and took on a workload I expected to split between two people, but you did an incredible job.

Graeme: This is going to sound harsh. I may have rolled my eyes at some of your extra-long story pitches sent via text and been frustrated when you uploaded dozens of photo options for every culture story, but I always quickly reminded myself to cut it out because I appreciated how passionate you were about your job. You are going to do great things and I will watch on Instagraeme.

Olivia: I’m so glad that before I was editor in chief, I got to work so closely with you on the culture team. I remember sitting in budgeting meetings where you would pitch stories and weigh in on my ideas, and that confidence, creativity and willingness to step outside your job description to help will serve you in whatever you do next. I’m glad you had the chance to cover some Super Bowls (i.e. meetings with dozens of administrators all in one room) and I’m sure there will be more in your future. Watching you cover protests and shoot on the floor of the Barclays Center made me such a proud bean, but I was even happier when you were just sitting in my office being my friend. You’ve always been way cooler than I could ever hope to be, but thanks for sticking around, making me laugh and listening to me talk about all the drama in my life.

Lindsay: My smol. You hate me for it, but you were the only person I could imagine stepping up when I needed you the most this year. I’m kind of talking about becoming culture editor when I say that, but I also am referring to all the times I texted you “dfaksdhfjkabskjdfh,” called you to complain and put sassy comments in your Google docs. You were a great culture editor and I wish you enjoyed it more, but I am so proud of you. I am so thankful for the work you did, but I’m more thankful for your friendship. Because you spent the entire year gushing about BA with me, telling me I was acting crazy when I was and spilling all of the tea to me when I was trapped in my office without any gossip, I’ll share my location with you if you want.

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Barbara: As I write this, I’m sitting over you in my office while you wrap up writing your own 30. It’s almost 1 a.m. – nearly four hours after the deadline I set for you – but I can’t even be mad. I say this not to publicly shame you, but to draw attention to how meticulous you are about everything you do. I laughed every time you sent me a draft email or text message this year, but through it all I have been so impressed with your work ethic and incredible strength in the face of challenges. Sometimes those challenges came in the form of sources who wanted to tear you down any chance they got and sometimes it came in the form of lawsuits and scandals that popped up at the 11th hour, but no matter what the challenge was, you took it in stride. I hope you’re happy I used a pun just for you. In your 30, you said I was always in your corner. But the truth is, you were one of the few people on staff I could always count on to be in mine. You made me laugh, built me up and drank with me when this job became too much – thank you for that.

Sarah: When I sat down to start writing the top of this, part of me worried that I would scare you by talking about how challenging this year has been for me. But I quickly remembered that you were elected to this position for a reason. You are so strong, and I can’t wait to see what you do next year. For all of the challenges this job throws at you, it gives you double that in return as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t stress about the small things. Don’t worry about what percentage of soft you are. You can be soft and caring and fun and still be an incredible editor in chief – and I know you will do just that.

Matt: I think you heard every swear word that exists come out of my mouth this year. Even when all I could do was string together a chain of expletives, you always knew what to say. Most people on staff know you as a man of few words, but I’m glad I got to know you as a man who is quick to point out baloney and ask me who the heck cares. There were times this year when I felt like I was the only person who cared about this paper, but you proved me wrong so many of those times. You pushed me to be better not because you outwardly challenged me or demanded that I work hard, but because your presence meant I was surrounded by endless knowledge about GW and The Hatchet at all times, and I knew this paper means so much to you. You were more pivotal to my success and sanity this year than you think. So thank you for being my bearer of bad news. Thank you for being the lone survivor from Hatchet Holiday 2015 and recreating the photo with me. Thank you for obsessing over this newspaper with me. And thank you for entertaining all of my crazy ideas and stressing about the future of the paper with me at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 21st Street twice a week.

Cayla: OK, I finally have to write this. I have been putting off writing this note to you for hours and hours because I have no idea how I will ever sum up all that you’ve done for me this year. I also don’t think I’ll ever be able to craft my feelings into as concise and beautiful a graf as I’m sure you’ve written to me. But here it goes: I was able to focus on building up other sections of this paper that needed love because of you and this volume was leaps and bounds better for it. You are by far the most headstrong and determined person on this staff – and while that made me want to tear my hair out and frankly pissed me off on more than one occasion this year – this paper was better for it. I don’t know how the news team will go on without a fierce leader like you to defend them, smooth over difficult situations and sit patiently by while teaching them how to be better reporters and writers, but I am so thankful I didn’t have to worry about that. You’ve done so much to make The Hatchet an incredible newspaper, but you’ve also done so much to make me better all around. It will be a while before I stop impulse picking up the phone to call you after every minor inconvenience. Thanks for cyberbullying Matt Cullen with me, sending me photobooth photos and remembering to laugh no matter how stressed we are. I could write more about all the times you made this job more fun, but I’ll just leave this instead:

Me: *Crying trying to write this* You: *click here*

All of the distractions: Thank you for learning what prodo means, pretending to care about student government and administrative departures and listening to me yell about the people I gush about above. I couldn’t have made it through this year without people outside this institution to push me, care for me and love me. I’m sorry I rarely picked up the phone when you called but was always tied to my phone when we were together. I’m sorry I could never fully explain to you what this job entailed and got frustrated when you didn’t understand. Thank you for supporting me anyway. I love you all, and I can talk on Sundays now.

-30-

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