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 goal was two videos a week. Each Sunday, we would meet with the editor in chief to discuss our pitches and immediately race to source people, film the event and edit the footage by the following week. That was the routine and it worked. From Sunday afternoon to Saturday evening, I was constantly moving 100 miles per hour to make sure that I met every deadline and strived to make each video better than the last. I filmed basketball games in the Smith Center, edited videos for student organization events on campus and spoke with community leaders around Foggy Bottom. Every video was another item on my to-do list to check off.
The COVID pandemic completely threw the routine out the window. Working from home in the initial months of the pandemic was already difficult. You were forced to restructure your daily schedule and take into account all of the technical difficulties you could encounter that would inhibit you from producing your best work. But our section relied exclusively on footage we filmed ourselves at in-person events held on campus and in the District. I had to get creative, but that meant I had to change the routine.
In December 2020, I pitched an idea to Sarah to create a D.C. neighborhood video series. I aimed to speak with community activists, long-time residents and elected officials from a certain neighborhood to create an oral history of the changes that occurred throughout the years. I started with Chinatown. At first, I anticipated the entire process to be simple and completed in two weeks. I envisioned a five-minute video that would touch upon different aspects of the neighborhood as a means to stick to the publication schedule of our team.
The project ended up lasting for two months. Before the pandemic, this would have horrified me. To work solely on a single video for two months was far under the minimum I had set for myself. But in working on the project, I learned a lot more than I had thought I would have. I went on to create videos on U Street, Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. I discussed the founding of the first LGBTQ+ bookstore in D.C. with co-owners Deacon Maccubbin and Jim Bennett, learned about the resilience of Ben’s Chili Bowl through the tides of gentrification, heard about the experience of immigrating from Fujian province in China to the District and researched the resurgence of artistic retail space in Adams Morgan. Having the privilege to sit down and speak with my neighbors openly about their experiences living in D.C. was eye-opening. It felt like I was giving back to the community that had given so much to me through college.
Journalism isn’t about to-do lists and publication schedules. Yes, deadlines are important. But The Hatchet taught me that what is truly meaningful in video journalism is having the opportunity to sit down and candidly speak with people to capture their stories in the way they hope to portray it.
Of course, I can’t take all of the credit. Without The Hatchet, I wouldn’t have even considered enhancing my video skills and I wouldn’t have met the great team of people along the way:
Heidi: I am so grateful that you joined The Hatchet freshman year. I remember you walked into our video training session spring semester and you were the only new videographer we welcomed to the team. Still, that didn’t discourage you. We then had two technical difficulties filming your first video rendering our footage unsalvageable and you still stayed with us. Through the multiple ups and downs we had, and we certainly had a few, I knew I could depend on you when I was in a pinch. Working alongside you on The Hatchet certainly was one of the many reasons I stayed with it.
Sarah: I don’t even know if you will read this because you have long graduated and are off doing amazing things at your full-time job. I remember at one of our social events you said to me, “I wanted to comment on your Instagram post but I didn’t know if we were close enough to do that.” That definitely got a chuckle out of me. Unfortunately, the pandemic rolled around and we were sent home before we could get closer but I sincerely thank you for being a great boss for the bulk of my time with The Hatchet. You always pushed me to think outside of the box and expected the most from me. You also never shot down one of my ideas and I was able to explore my more creative side. Under your leadership, I bolstered my video skills and became more confident as an editor and a person. Thank you for everything.
Amanda: I understand the struggle of leading the video team. Among the smallest sections on The Hatchet with some of the most demanding work, it can get tiresome. However, when I had to unexpectedly step down from The Hatchet to focus on personal manners, you kept the team afloat. Your diligence and tenacity is admirable. You also always showed up with a positive spirit that emulated through your work. I am beyond confident that you will lead the video team to new heights next year and expand the group. If you ever need anything, know that I am always available to help out.
Thais: I still remember first meeting you when we traveled to Chinatown to film the barbershop. Even though your footage ended up a little shaky and my audio was shoddy, it was fun to get back out and film in person again. Attending classes in your first semester is tough but joining the video section of the student newspaper, which normally requires you to be in person everywhere, while you were in Illinois is commendable. Your patience to stick it out virtually and still create high-quality videos that evinced your skill is praiseworthy. It has definitely been a rocky two years but I know for sure that you will find your footing within your major and achieve amazing things.
Arianna: When I joined The Hatchet, I was a timid freshman with an interest in video and no knowledge of journalism. Your welcoming composure along with your hard work running both the video and podcast sections inspired me to take on a staff position with The Hatchet. Thank you for believing in me.
My non-Hatchet friends: Thank you all for bearing with me as I spent each and every waking moment at GW with some Hatchet-related complaint. Thank you for dealing with my frustrations of spending Sunday nights busy and random weekdays running around to capture footage for a story idea you ignored when I went into great detail explaining. You are all great.
My Mom: Mama, I am beyond thankful for your support with The Hatchet. When I had to come home during the initial months of the pandemic, I was happily surprised to find you watching all of the videos I had a byline for. Your support through it all kept me going and I can graduate knowing you gave me the emotional strength to reach the finish line.
This article appeared in the April 7, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.