Alec Rich: Learning to listen

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | 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.

I’ve never been much of a talker. That might sound paradoxical coming from someone who’s hosted a podcast for the better part of the last two years, but I think it helps explain why I was drawn to journalism in the first place. Reporting gives people like me the chance to listen, really listen, as others share their stories, perspectives and insights.

Since I first joined The Hatchet in the fall of my freshman year, this paper has given me the opportunity to listen to hundreds of voices in and around the GW community, all of whom have fed my curiosity and hopefully helped others better understand this (oftentimes wild) University.

But the funny thing is, I was petrified of interviewing when I first signed up to write for The Hatchet. I knew I wanted to push myself, and thought reporting for the school paper would be as good a chance as any to see if I even liked journalism.

And so soon enough, there I was, scribbling down quotes from professors, students, coaches and administrators, desperately trying to keep my hands steady from the nerves as I prepared my next question.

But it was also in those moments when I first realized I needed to lean on something I knew I could do, which of course was to listen. And not just listening to what I was being told, but also listening for what wasn’t being said, which was oftentimes just as revealing.

After making plenty of mistakes and becoming more comfortable with reporting, as one often does with more experience, I helped report on important stories from the underrepresentation of female coaches in the A-10 to pushback on the 20/30 Plan. Before long, I’d already been on The Hatchet for well over a year and a half when the opportunity came along to host the news podcast, a medium I knew little about.

Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

But I knew I wanted to push the envelope in helping to tell stories for The Hatchet, and podcasting seemed a good way to do that. It’s also a personal medium, where you’re literally hearing someone speak right up in your ears (assuming you’re wearing headphones). And so that also appealed to me, by bringing the experience of listening directly to the GW community as interviewees explained stories in their own words.

I’m immensely grateful to all of the students, professors, administrators and experts who have lent their voices to the podcast over the last year-plus, helping listeners (including myself) make sense of countless topics. Of course, the impact of the pandemic on college life consumed many episodes, but your voices also helped amplify stories including the negative impact of GW’s real expansion in Foggy Bottom, the necessity of mental health resources on campus, student voter participation and so many more.

I’m forever grateful to have been just a small contributor to The Hatchet’s coverage over the last few years, and I’m also indebted to the many people who have inspired and mentored me along the way. Here’s just a few:

Zach: We’ve come a long way, my friend. From the second floor of Madison Hall freshman year to roommates now, it’s been a crazy ride these last few years. But I’m thankful for your support through it all, and also grateful that the Hatchet has served as a common denominator for us. As I’ve also observed countless times over, you’re a tremendous journalist and leader, and I’m constantly inspired by the effort you pour into everything you take on. I can’t wait to see where your skills lead you, since I know you’ll be amazing at anything you do moving forward!

Lia: When I heard you were interested in running for EIC, I was really excited, because I knew you’d have the skills to lead the Hatchet with responsibility and grace. You’ve done that and more since you were elected, including by pushing me each week to help the podcast section produce great content. I’m very excited to see where you take the paper next semester! I’ve also seen you do great reporting over the years, including in our capstone class this semester, which warrants a nod here.

Jared: Ah, the Philly sports fan (had to). You were one of my first Hatchet friends from our time on the academics team way back in the day, and I still look back fondly on all the co-bylines we had (which feels like decades ago now). It’s also been awesome to watch you rise through the ranks over the last few years, as you’ve led with care and consistently done great work at every stop along the way. Shoutout for your work in the capstone class too, excited to see your last video!

Sarah S.: I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to lead the podcast section with over the last year-plus. You had a tough assignment in trying to build up an entirely new culture podcast amidst a pandemic, but I was constantly awed by your ability to come up with great pitches each week and produce amazing content. Not only that, but you did an incredible job editing the news podcast too, which would not have been as strong each week without your work on it. Enjoy your semester abroad, and I know this won’t be the last time I see your byline in the Hatchet!

Sarah R.: There was no reason you had to trust a young research assistant with zero podcasting experience to take over the news podcast. But, you did, and looking back, I’m incredibly grateful that you took a chance on me. You helped guide me along the way to meet the goals we’d initially laid out for the section, and I was constantly willing to push myself because I knew you had confidence in me. You also did an incredible job leading the Hatchet for two years, which is a remarkable feat in itself and speaks volumes about your character.

Meredith: When I first said I was interested in taking over the news podcast, you sprang right into action and helped me get ready for the job, something for which I’m very grateful. And that was also despite a difficult transition period that took place at the same time everyone was sent home due to the pandemic. You set a high bar for what a college news podcast should look like (which is especially impressive given how few college papers actually have a podcast section), so that is definitely something I’ve tried to live up to over the last year-plus.

The Facts Squad (Ed, Amy and Ciara): We had some good times, didn’t we? I know it wasn’t always easy, especially with the many stories to check through and late nights, but you all worked incredibly hard to ensure the paper was as accurate as it could be for the year we held those research assistant roles. We all moved up on the Hatchet after that year, to positions everyone was more than well-deserving of, and I can’t wait to see what you all do in the future. Ed’s exploits at Hatchet Prom will also forever be legendary.

Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

Lizzie: You exemplified what it meant to not only be a great student journalist, but a great journalist, period. I was constantly in awe of the lengths you went to in order to shed light on necessary topics, which I know was far from easy. You were also an all-around terrific mentor from the moment I became a research assistant, and I know you were a great mentor to many others on the Hatchet as well.

Emily: I was consistently impressed with how you led the sports section for two years, a job that wasn’t always easy given our small but mighty group of reporters (our weekly Kahoot games certainly boosted section camaraderie). I also saw week in and week out the passion you had for sports reporting, which inspired everyone on the section to do what they could in the service of writing great pieces.

My first editors (Barbara and Lauren): Even though I split my time between news and sports as a reporter, which wasn’t always easy, you were both great mentors and showed me the ropes as I made the jump to student journalism at GW. Whether it involved traveling out to Virginia to cover a baseball game or doing some last-minute door-knocking for an academics story, you both helped me become a better reporter and gave me an early idea of what leadership on a student newspaper should look like.

Ilena: The original academics team was truly stacked. I feel like we practically grew up on The Hatchet together, and both on the paper and in SMPA classes, I saw how hard you worked to tell great stories. I was also really impressed with your ability to tackle different mediums, including when you helped out the podcast by making that incredible web map of GW’s expansion into Foggy Bottom through the years.

The new podcast team (Sejal and Ethan): I’m very proud of the work you’ve both put in over the last number of weeks as you get ready to take over the news and culture podcasts full-time. Taking on new roles halfway through the year is never easy, you’ve got a great network of student journalists to lean on. In just a few episodes, I’ve already heard both of your interviewing skills improve, and I’m really excited to see the work you both produce moving forward!

My family and friends: Thank you for your endless support, even when life gets stressful. I wouldn’t be who I am today without your influence and love.

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