Lizzie Mintz: Learning from the past

Media Credit: Lillian Bautista | Senior 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.

My 10th grade history teacher taught us that we study the past, so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future. I believe it was during this point that I fell in love with stories – tales about people who lifted up the communities around them and who change the world without even knowing it.

I was aware of The Hatchet before coming to GW but had never considered becoming a journalist. I moved 3,000 miles away from home because I knew studying politics in the nation’s capital would be the opportunity of a lifetime. But I felt pretty lost my first semester at college. I missed my friends and family and questioned whether GW was the right choice.

I took my parents’ advice and joined The Hatchet on a whim: Perhaps it would help me make friends, and I could always stop if I didn’t like it. Very quickly, I discovered that joining the student life beat meant I could spend every week talking to students about how they’re working to change the GW community. I fell hard – fast. 

My experience isn’t unique. I’m joining the ranks of hundreds of former editors who unsuspectingly joined the paper and would spend the rest of their college years giving up sleep, social lives and structure to share important information with the community and hold leaders accountable.

Four years later, I look back on my time with immense gratitude for the students who let me have a glimpse into their lives and who defended my work, even when they disagreed with how I went about doing it. It may come as a shock to some, but I was secretly rooting for the students working tirelessly to make GW a better place. Whether it be Student Association meetings that go into the early hours of the morning or students launching social action campaigns, I’m always in awe of the advocacy and activism that happens at the University, most of which goes on behind the scenes. There’s a certain magic to it that I’ll never be able to describe.

It hasn’t always been easy: I never anticipated having to cover racism, anti-Semitism and sexual misconduct claims. As a student journalist for an independent newspaper, I’ve had to explain time and time again why writing a certain story matters. I’ve had students try to intimidate me into not reporting something. And I had an administrator – to my face – call me “the crazy one” at The Hatchet for the stories I’ve written. But demanding accountability from community leaders also means being candid about your own work, being available 24/7 to respond to students who disagree with you and taking responsibility when you screw up.

At times, the responsibility of holding a position where there’s no margin for error can be suffocating. But none of that matters when you see your reporting spark institutional change, when a student is comfortable sharing parts of themself with you or when a source calls you at 2:30 a.m. to give you a heads up about a confusing line in your story, not because they’re upset but because they want to help you.

It’s not lost on me that The Hatchet existed for 113 years before I stepped foot on campus, and I hope it will, at the very least, live for 113 more. I realize now that we aren’t just covering the current headlines – we’re changing the community around us and documenting history. And I hope it’s through our coverage, in part, that the GW community continues to learn from the past to create a better future.

I’ll forever be grateful for the editors who taught me more than I thought possible these past four years. However, it’s our friendships that I’ll always value most.

LILLIAN BAUTISTA | SENIOR PHOTO EDITOR

Thanking everyone would be impossible. I hope this list begins to scratch the surface:

Sarah: I’ve put you through a lot these past few years, including many, many text chains, and while I regret certain choices I’ve made, you never held that against me. Being your reporter shaped me into the journalist I am today: You taught me to never back down from a challenge nor be afraid to ask difficult questions, no matter how they’d be received. And I’ve approached everything thinking “How would Sarah handle this?” – of course before promptly texting you about it. Though they were the last things you wanted to think about, you were there for every SA lawsuit and angry message from frat boys about how their chapter shutting down is “not a big deal.” I still think you should’ve let me run that story with “mass exodus” in the headline, but oh well. In all seriousness, my proudest Hatchet moments wouldn’t have been possible without you. Thank you – for everything.

Cayla: You took a chance on a girl with no formal journalism training, but that never stopped you from encouraging me to keep taking stories and gaining hands-on experience. There’s a reason why so many of your babies went on to join staff: You understood that editors investing their time in new reporters is what makes this institution succeed. Thank you for getting me hooked on SA drama and student shenanigans. I’ve tried to form connections with student leaders just as you did because you taught us that our relationships with the community are what will make or break our ability to tell important stories.

Dani: We both know I made many mistakes, but you never let that affect how you treated me. When students really tested my limits, you answered every panicked, novel-length text. My writing ability has grown astronomically because of you, and you showed me how to celebrate the successes and learn from the failures. You taught me how to navigate highly sensitive stories with compassion and care, and you encouraged me to dig deeper in my reporting because there’s always another story beneath the surface. Thank you for having faith in me when I was at my lowest – you always knew what I was capable of and, though it seemed impossible at times, pushed me to be better.

Parth: Our first interaction was when we were paired to cover March For Our Lives. I was terrified of having to speak to strangers while you, having already established yourself as an incredible reporter, spent the day bonding with Liz K and Leah between interviews. Though we bumped into each other over the next year, it wasn’t until I watched you transition as SNE that I fully understood the high praise that always follows you. You pushed the news team to be its best and never wavered in your commitment to defend us. Your leadership has improved this institution immensely. I’ve no doubt that your name will one day be among the other prestigious Hatchet alumni who staffers look up to.

J: I’ve known for months that including you in my 30 would be the easiest, and the hardest, thing I’d ever write for The Hatchet. Once upon a time, we were two young freshmen who bumped into each other at a Hillel event and realized we’d both joined this crazy institution. Fast forward a few years and your friendship is one of the things I value most in life. I said sophomore year that you’re a great reporter, and I wish I could’ve also told you then what a great leader you’d become. You took on SNE solo, and while I’ve only seen glimpses of you on the job, your compassion, tenacity and commitment to producing quality journalism are what made this year’s news team a success. I’m so excited to see what you’ll do as ME, and I look forward to being able to say I was there to witness your start in what will be an extraordinary career. “Thank you” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Ilena: If only we’d known in March 2020 that our latest walk could be the last. I’ve seen you conquer many staff positions during your too-short-for-my-liking time at The Hatchet, and I’m in awe of the newswoman you’ve become. You stepped up to brilliantly lead metro, went beyond your job description as blogs editor because you knew we needed your talents and ended as a champion web developer. But what I love most about you is your ability to see the bigger picture and stay on track (see example: graduating in 2.5 years). You may be my beloved Hatchet little, but I’ve turned to you for advice more times than I can count. I hope our next walk will be very soon and in the comfort of our great home state.

Zach: Our paths crossed for the first time in 2018 when I, a fresh editor who had no idea what she was doing, was told that you, a new reporter, would be helping me write a story about SAMs. You spent the whole afternoon calling university police departments – and didn’t have much success. Days later, I called you late at night to crunch numbers on residence hall dimensions and rent prices (one could say I influenced your tenure in finance). You’ve easily become my favorite writing partner, and I can proudly say most of my family and friends are sick of hearing me brag about “Boy Scout Zach.” I can’t wait to see you help lead this institution and will look for your threads about angry faculty members. Sorry about Halloween.

Lia: Our time started with me telling you to get off the Vern and go interview people on the street about traffic regulations, but I’m so glad you were able to look past that. Thank you for being a friend first and a colleague second – I’ve missed you so much this past year. Watching you rack up sources and nurture your reporters, first as a metro then health and sciences queen, warms my heart. Your compassionate approach to reporting and care for others have allowed you to take these sections to new heights, and your ability to never lose sight of The Hatchet’s mission will take you far as the paper’s next editor in chief. While I’ve high expectations for the future of this institution, I know you’ll exceed them. I’ll be cheering from afar!

Ed: A trip to the emergency room isn’t the best way to start a working relationship, or friendship, but we can’t change the past. Confession time: When you told me you weren’t returning for your junior year, I was devastated. As the person to transition you, I thought I’d failed you. But you returned when I desperately needed you, and I wouldn’t have wanted to mow and trim the lawn with anyone else. Thank you for encouraging me to do my homework and take care of myself. Thank you for stepping in (unsolicited) when I wanted to come back to staff but was too scared to advocate for myself. And thank you for never getting mad when I sent you “IDK, AP Style makes no sense” texts when it was my job to know. While I’m sad to see you leave Team Copy, I’m proud of you for pursuing your other interests and know you will be great wherever your next adventure takes you. LM finished, EP done.

Makena & Tiffany: My stars! Y’all had the two hardest positions on staff, and never once did I hear you complain. Our relationships with the student body are crucial to the success of this paper, and you’ve taken the section to the next level. You should be incredibly proud of the work you’ve done and the group of phenomenal reporters you’ve built. I can’t think of a better team to have led the most challenging section of this institution. I consider myself a lifetime member of your fan clubs!

LILLIAN BAUTISTA | SENIOR PHOTO EDITOR

Jarrod: After reading your application, I told the news team you were going to be a star. They told me to be patient and let you settle in, but I’m glad I get to say I was right. From the moment I met you, I knew you’d be a Hatchet success story – someone who continues to improve with everything they do and contributes back to this institution tenfold. Helming metro has turned you into a truly phenomenal reporter, writer and editor. You’ve surpassed my greatest expectations – and more. And it comes as no surprise that you were tapped to lead the news team. Know that I’m only a call or text away.

Lillian: No editor likes to receive the “Can we talk?” text, especially just weeks into the job. What I anticipated happening luckily did not, and that late-night conversation sparked our friendship. You’re an incredibly talented journalist, and you continue to impress me every day. Thank you for all the memes, advice and laughter. Your Hatchet/ROTC party was the weirdest gathering I’ve attended, and I may be part cork now because of you, but I’m glad for our time together. I look forward to reading your bylines in the years to come: Expect my edits.

Linds: We’ve often worked together in some related capacity over the years, but it wasn’t until the fall that I had the fortune of getting to know you outside of The Hatchet (though at times, I did secretly enjoy our late-night Slack debates). While I’ve spent years looking up to you as a culture queen, I also look up to you as an amazing human being. You shine positivity in everything you do and lead with kindness, and I’ve no doubt that you’ll succeed in everything you put your mind to.

Ciara, Amy & Alec: My babies! The first day we gathered in the Hatchet attic together, I thought “Wow, this group couldn’t be more different.” But I’m so glad I was wrong! Your friendships are what this institution is all about, and you’ve all contributed greatly to your sections. I hope you’ll model this for the next volume because being able to work together while also rooting for each other’s successes is everything to this paper. Keep up the shenanigans, and I look forward to watching you finish up your time at The Hatchet.

Kiran, Hannah & Andrew: I’ll publicly admit now that my weekly SA editorial column would’ve been a disaster, thank you for never taking me seriously. The news-ops divide can be difficult, especially having to explain the necessity of both sections to non-journalists, but you have established yourselves as important voices in our community. Thank you for showing staff what it means to take your work seriously but also to have fun with it. Andrew: Shout out for putting up with me this semester. Commas and periods are your friends.

Emily Maise: If I could do it all over again, I’d try sports reporting. To be fair: I know almost nothing about sports, but watching you report incredibly important stories this past year has made me so proud of your small but mighty section. Not everyone at GW realizes the influences sports have on this university – from marketing to alumni involvement to everything in between – but you do. And you led coverage with more patience and care than I’ve ever seen a human possess, especially under an athletic department whose dictatorial rule often made your job impossible. I expect to see your name shining in bright lights one day!

Jaden: I’m thrilled with everything you’ve accomplished these past few weeks. You’ve taken to copy faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been amazed by your passion and commitment. I know you didn’t expect to be promoted two weeks in (Surprise!) but I can’t think of a better person for the job. Copy is the backbone of any paper, and it’s the best role I’ve had at The Hatchet. Let me know when you start dreaming about editing in your sleep. I expect updates on how you’re working to become the chief dissenter on ed board. Wishing you all the best, and call me if you need anything!

GW Hillel: I had two homes at GW: The Hatchet and Hillel. Staff, thank you for your unwavering support since the day I stepped foot on campus. Thank you for modeling what it means to be a successful Jewish professional. And thank you for creating a space where students can find meaning and joy in their faith. You’ve changed my life, and I’ll forever be grateful for it.

Apt. 303, The Boys™, Meghan, Liat, Simon & Zachary: I worked for this paper for four years and you almost never read my stories because “You write too many of them.” While that was disappointing at times, you knew I needed some non-Hatchet normalcy in my life. Thank you for never getting too upset about the last-minute cancellations and the significant events that always included my phone in hand. You heard “Sorry, can’t. Hatchet.” more than you, and I, would’ve liked. And while I’d sometimes disappear for seemingly days at a time, you were always there with hugs when I reemerged. Most of my freshman year I was terrified I’d never find my place at GW, but I know now that I came to D.C. to find all of you. **Cue grateful Lizzie sounds**

My family: Me being part of The Hatchet worried you at times. It often prevented me from dedicating the necessary time to complete my schoolwork and explore other opportunities. I sometimes prioritized it over my own health. And being on staff meant my time at home was always cut short by needing to return to D.C. But regardless, you read all my pieces, became invested in my stories (Mom, did you ever suspect you’d use your degree for SA lawsuits?) and supported me because you knew I loved being part of this institution. I’ll never be able to properly thank you for what you have given – and will continue to give – me, but I hope to spend my life making you proud. 

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