Natalie Prieb: The beauty is in the details

Media Credit: Courtesy of Wendy Selig-Prieb

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.

The biggest thing I’ve learned as a copy editor is that the role is inextricably linked to the importance of detail. You watch for every accidental Oxford comma, every abbreviation that should be spelled out and every spelled out word that should be abbreviated. You learn that AP style has some rules that are very easy to remember and some that seemingly make no sense at all. You look for style and grammar errors on your laptop screen until 2 a.m. when your eyes are red and your head feels like mush. All you want is to get into bed because you have to get up early the next morning and do the reading you didn’t do on prodo day, but still, you keep going.

It’s a strange experience doing a job that most people don’t see the results of – that is, except when you mess up. No one knows that you fixed a Hatchet or AP style error in the third graf, but everyone will see the grammar mistake you didn’t catch in the sixth graf. I don’t write this with frustration or annoyance, however, because I’ve come to love the importance of small details. It feels like a little secret, doing a job that only you and a select few realize the full importance of.

Being a copy editor has taught me that the details matter, even the ones most people fail to notice. I’ve learned this watching for grammar or AP style, but when you read every story every single week, you see the beautiful details that editors and writers put into the stories they produce. It’s the details in a culture profile that bring a local restaurant owner or student leader to life. It’s the details in a news story that demonstrate the state of old buildings on campus or the impact of a professor’s research on finding a cure to a disease. It’s the details in a sports story that make you feel like you were sitting on the edge of your seat at that game, and it’s the details in an opinions piece, the section closest to my heart, that make you look at an issue in a way you’d never thought about before.

Although I’ve been an opinions writer since I was a freshman, some might say that being on staff for only a year of my college experience makes it a detail in the overall scope of things, and in a way, that’s true. I didn’t spend as much time in The Hatchet townhouse as students who are on staff for most of their college careers, and I’ve only known most of the people on Volume 116 since last April, with very few exceptions.

Yet this past year on staff has given me some of the most cherished details of my time at GW, ones I can’t imagine not having. All those late Sunday nights goofing off in the basement and singing along to Spotify playlists. Editorial board meetings that always resulted in laughter and getting completely off-topic. Deliberating Student Association endorsements in the townhouse until 4 a.m. Hatchet Halloween, Thanksgiving and Holiday. Most of all, a talented, wonderful group of people who I will forever be grateful that I got to know.

The Hatchet is the biggest, brightest detail of my college life, and I can’t imagine the last four years without it. I can’t imagine not having had the opportunity to learn from the people listed below, all of whom directly or indirectly made me a better writer and editor. It breaks my heart that I won’t get to say goodbye to the current Hatchet staff in person, but I hope this piece sums up how much they mean to me.

Here’s to you, Hatchet folks, for all the beautiful details:

Courtesy of Wendy Selig-Prieb

Ellie: I’m so grateful that you were the first editor in chief I ever wrote for when I joined The Hatchet as a freshman. Your comments on my first couple pieces were so encouraging and made me a better writer. I’m also so glad we’ve reconnected in the last year, and I love seeing all the amazing things you’re doing at ABC. Can’t wait until we can get together for coffee or dinner again!

Melissa: I remember being so nervous walking into my first opinions meeting and how it felt when you encouraged the first idea I ever pitched. You taught me everything I know about writing for opinions, and I’ll always be thankful for all of your support and guidance in that first semester I joined. I’m so glad that we’ve stayed in touch, and I hope you know how much I’ve appreciated your career advice and answering all of my questions in the last year and a half. I still really look up to you as a writer and journalist, and I know you’re going to continue doing incredible things in your career.

Irene: I really loved having you as an opinions editor. You made our meetings such a welcoming and friendly environment and were always so encouraging of everyone. I miss seeing you around, but I love watching you dominate the law school scene!

Renee: You were a great opinions editor, and I’ll always be grateful for the ways that you challenged me and made me a stronger writer. I wish we could have overlapped during our times on staff, but I’m so glad I got to know you in our opinions meetings.

Sarah: I couldn’t have asked for a better editor in chief during my time on staff. From the first days of becoming a staff member you were so open and welcoming to me, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you over the past year. Besides being a great leader and an incredibly talented journalist, you are so kind and fun to be around. I’m really going to miss you laughing uncontrollably in meetings and hanging out with you in the basement on Sunday nights. As sad as it is to leave The Hatchet, I know that the paper is in great hands with you at the helm for another year. Can’t wait to see everything you accomplish on the next volume!

Kelly: I can’t imagine having joined the copy section with anyone else leading it. Thank you for teaching me about AP style and for being so understanding when I messed up, especially in the beginning when I was overwhelmed and felt like I didn’t know anything. You are such a sweet person, and I’m so glad that we became friends during our time on copy together. You are also a great editor and writer – POLITICO is lucky to have you! Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can get drinks or dinner together again. Thank you for everything!!

Kiran: Even though you have the worst hot dog preferences of anyone I know, you have done a wonderful job leading the opinions section over the last year. Thank you for convincing me to join the editorial board – even after I tried to get out of it – because our Tuesday night meetings were consistently one of the highlights of my week. You are such a talented writer, and I know you’re going to be a great managing director.

Parth: As much as everyone on staff loves to roast you, there’s no doubt that we all recognize how much you contribute to the functioning of The Hatchet. I really admire how invested you are in every facet of this paper (except for sports), and as a biased copy editor, I love that you take an interest in copy since it’s often forgotten about (even though, contrary to your LinkedIn profile, you are not the contributing copy editor). I’m going to miss hanging out with you in the basement on Sundays, and I’m sure you’re going to do great things as managing editor. Plus, I know I can trust you to roast Kiran during editorial board meetings every week.

Ed: I’ve loved having you as part of the copy team for the last semester, and I still can’t get over how quickly you picked up AP style. I’m so glad that you were one of the first people I got to know when I joined staff because you are so fun to be around and always make me laugh. You’ve been the best assistant copy editor I could ask for, and I can’t wait to see all the great things you do throughout the rest of your college career.

Lizzie: I was so excited when you first told me you were interested in applying to be copy editor, and I’ve loved watching you take over the section. You were so welcoming to me when I first joined staff as a research assistant, and I remember getting to know you and thinking how crazy talented and accomplished you were for only being a sophomore. From writing to reporting to editing, you are so ridiculously talented, and I know you’re going to keep doing amazing things during your last year on staff.

Julia: I know this hasn’t been the most ideal transition to staff, but you have done such a great job learning the ropes of copy over the last few weeks. I wish I could’ve gotten to know you more as you transitioned into the role of assistant copy editor, but I have no doubts that you’re going to do a wonderful job over the next year. I know the last few weeks haven’t been easy, but you’ve handled them like a pro, and I can’t thank you enough.

Courtesy of Wendy Selig-Prieb

Hannah: It’s truly been a joy getting to know you over the past year, and I’ve loved watching you grow into an editor in addition to being a very talented writer. Your sense of humor and wild stories have made our editorial board meetings so much fun. I have no doubts that you’re going to do an incredible job leading the opinions section and ed board and that you’ll continue roasting Kiran on a consistent basis.

Leah: You are such a sweet person, and I’m so grateful that you were managing director for the year that I was on staff. I remember bonding with you over creative writing during the first meeting we had in the Marvin Center last spring and how open and friendly you were to me during my early days on staff. You’ve been such a calming presence in the townhouse, and I’m so grateful for all you’ve done to make The Hatchet a welcoming community.

Meredith: From studying for biological anthropology exams freshman year to now, we’ve really come a long way. You are so much fun to be around, and I’m glad I’ve gotten to spend more time with you during this last year. I can’t imagine the basement crew without you, and I’ve enjoyed watching your banter with Sarah every Sunday night. I have no doubt that you’re going to do amazing things in the future!

Dani: You are such a talented reporter and editor and a ray of light in the townhouse each week. I’m going to miss your banter with Parth and your consistently stylish outfits. Can’t wait to see all of the amazing things you accomplish!

Jared: I remember meeting you after first joining staff last spring, and similar to my first impression of Lizzie, not believing you were only a sophomore. You are so talented and hardworking, and you’re going to be an awesome senior news editor. I’ve also loved bonding with you over baseball and how our teams disappointed us – we will live to see World Series wins one of these years!

Sidney: I’ve been consistently blown away this whole year by the content you and Molly have produced for the culture section. I really admire how you never give less than 100 percent to everything you do, whether that’s in a culture story or in your thoughtful perspectives in editorial board meetings. My favorite memory with you was definitely hanging out in Arizona over winter break (I still feel bad that we had such horrible weather while you were there!), and I hope we’ll find ourselves in the same city and do it again soon. You are amazing, and it’s been so fun getting to know you!

Molly: Although I didn’t get to spend as much time with you this year as I would have liked, you are such a kind and talented person, and I always enjoyed hanging out with you in the townhouse basement. You’ve done incredible work for culture this year, and I can’t wait to see all that you continue to do!

Emily: In editing so many stories of yours on a weekly basis, I saw over and over again how amazing of a writer you are. I have no idea how you produce such consistently great stories every week, especially not having as many writers as the other sections do. You are also one of the sweetest people, and your kind, positive energy is such an asset in the townhouse. I’m so glad that you and Belle are staying on to lead the sports section next year, and I have no doubt that you’ll continue to put Parth in his place when he comes after sports.

Olivia C.: You are easily one of the most dedicated people on this paper, and I can’t imagine what the pages of The Hatchet would look like without you. Sitting in the basement every week, I’ve seen how much effort you put into every inch of every page. I’ve also loved having the opportunity to be on the editorial board with you because you are so smart and have a depth of knowledge about such a wide range of topics. I can’t wait to see all the beautiful pages you design next semester, and I know that no matter what, you will make sure that food discourse lives on.

Olivia D.: I’m so sad that you graduated early because I really loved hanging out with you every week in the basement. Besides your talent for design which I so wish I had, you made everyone who walked into the basement feel so welcome and comfortable. I remember sitting down there on one of my first Sunday prodos when I barely knew anyone, and you made it a point to ask me questions and get to know me. That really meant a lot being new to staff, and I attribute so much of the bond of the basement crew to you.

Arielle: Photo is such an important section of any newspaper, and the work you have done over the past year has made The Hatchet undeniably better. I loved spending time with you in the basement on those late Sunday nights, and I really appreciate that you never lost your positive energy on the days when we were there until 2 a.m. I wish we could have taken the photos for my 30 together, but I’m glad they’ll at least be edited by the pro that you are!

Research Assistants: Although I wasn’t one of you for that long, some of my favorite early memories on staff involved sitting in the newsroom with you guys. You all have done great work over the last year, not just in fact checking but in the stories you’ve worked on as well, and I know that the future of The Hatchet is in great hands with you guys sticking around.

The Bears (Ruth, Liz and Brielle): Thank you for always being so understanding this past year when I could never hang out on Wednesdays or Sundays. I can’t imagine what my college memories would be without the three of you in them, and I know that even though our time at GW is ending, the bond among the bears never will. Special shout-out to Ruth: You are the best roommate and best friend I could ever ask for. I know that this publication hasn’t always made your life easy, which is why it means so much to me that you still encouraged and respected all the work that I did for it. You are my sister, and I would be lost without you.

My family: I’m so blessed to have an extended family that commented on every opinions piece I wrote and supported me through everything I did in the last four years. I love you all dearly, and I can’t wait to reunite with you as soon as we can.

Mom and Dad: I don’t have enough words to express everything you two deserve to hear, but I hope you know that I could never have gotten through the ups and downs of these four years without you. You two were always the first to congratulate me when I accomplished something and the first to comfort me when I was struggling. I love you both more than you know, and I hope I’ve made you proud. Also thanks, Mom for taking the pictures for this piece – wouldn’t have wanted to have a photo shoot in our apartment with anyone else!

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