Andrew Sugrue: Calling it like it is

Media Credit: Courtesy of Katie Toledo

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 first time I pitched a piece for ops, the editors looked at me askance. It was the fall of 2018, and then-president Donald Trump had just tried to discredit a study from GW’s public health school that determined the true scope of the damage of a devastating hurricane. I wanted to praise the calm, even-keeled and factual way that the school had handled the incident. I remember being told something like “‘we usually don’t run positive pieces,” but still getting the column approved.

Since then – first as an ops writer, then as a columnist, then as contributing opinions editor and now as opinions editor – I have always striven to call it like it is, whether positive or negative. Over four years, two editorial boards and more than a hundred pieces, I have tried to make balanced and thoughtful critiques, albeit with a few minor grievances sprinkled in here and there. It’s easy to criticize and tear down, but offering praise and building up is harder.

My proudest work has been pieces where I’ve tried to do just that. This has come in the form of praising GW’s decision to require vaccination against COVID-19, co-writing staff editorials offering qualified kind words for administrators and the Student Association – and all the way back to that first column I wrote as a precocious freshman praising the way Milken responded to presidential misinformation.

And when the time did arise to lob criticism – between the editorial board yelling at the SA for playing make-believe, prodding administrators about shared governance or writing a column about how hating on GW isn’t a personality trait – I’d like to think those pieces held more meaning because of that balance. (That may have done little to head off being ratioed on Twitter, but alas).

Writing for ops helped me find my voice, and I have loved every second of this journey. Sure, there have been countless long nights checking facts and copy, Sunday mornings when I would have rathered stay in bed than go to staff meetings or times when I’ve had to scramble to rearrange my schedule to write a last-minute ops piece. But I wouldn’t have traded my time on The Hatchet for the world.

Finally, here are just some of the people who made this journey possible:

Hannah: Where to even begin? We’ve been friends since one of the first ops meetings when we were both freshmen. I never would have imagined that serving as contrib during Zoom University would be fun, but I enjoyed every second of cracking jokes during budgeting, co-writing staff ed and everything in between. You were a tough act to follow as ops editor, but that also meant I got to learn from the best. You’re a wonderful person and friend, and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things you do.

Shreeya: Running the ops section side-by-side with you for the past year has been a blast. You took the role of contributing opinions editor and turned it from being ops-editor-in-waiting into a position that was uniquely your own. You left your mark on the countless ops pieces you edited, the staff eds you co-wrote and the writers you offered sage advice to. It’s been so fun working with you and getting to know you, all the way from West Hall freshman year till now.

Lia: As EIC, you took a job that seems pretty much undoable and did it incredibly. You gave the ops section room to run even when you were skeptical of some of the takes, and I appreciated that immensely. I’ll miss the laughs that you, me and Shreeya shared during ops budgeting. Believe it or not, I’ll even miss the countless edits imploring me to say “toward” instead of “towards.”

All my past editors: especially Kiran, Sarah and Renee – you all made me a better writer and set the standard for what being an editor should be. Thank you for all of the guidance over the years.

Edboard 118: You all put up with my artful/inartful theses, squeezed water from a stone in countless staff eds about shared governance and dispensed dozens of well-thought-out takes. I’ll miss the laughs, the “talking amongst ourselves” and hearing all of your smart opinions. I can’t wait to see the incredible things you all do.

Edboard 117: There’s no group of people I would have rathered spend an hour on Zoom with every week for a year. Even under suboptimal circumstances (to say the least), hearing your takes about what was happening at GW and in the District was still a highlight of my time on The Hatchet.

Everyone who’s had to copy-edit anything I’ve written: Especially Lizzie, Jaden, and Karina – Sorry not sorry about all the Oxford commas you’ve had to pry out of my pieces. I have to confess that one of my Oxford commas did make it to print one time, and it’s among my proudest achievements on the paper. But in all seriousness, thank you for dealing with my loquacity.

Ethan and Riley: The opinions section could not possibly be in better hands as Volume 119 kicks into gear. I cannot wait to see all the amazing things you both do with the section. You’re both eminently talented and thoughtful writers, and your writers and columnists are so lucky to have you both editing their work. (P.S.: hmu if a staff ed ever gets the “GW Twitter” treatment – now that I will no longer be on staff, I’ll gladly rise to edboard’s defense!).

The opinions section – past, present and future: Hearing your pitches every week, editing your pieces and seeing your faces has been one of the highlights of my time at GW. Through your passion, your creativity and your willingness to share ideas, you make everyone who reads your work smarter and more thoughtful. You have literally changed GW, too – there’ve been countless times that GW has enacted a fix of a policy after a Hatchet opinions column comes out about it. Keep sharing your experiences and your hot takes – I’ll be reading every single one of them!

All my friends: Thank you for putting up with all of the times I said “I can’t tonight, I have Hatchet stuff” over the years, or even whipped out my phone to answer a text from one of my writers in the middle of partying or kicking back.

Katie: I don’t even know where to start. Between texting me screenshots of my old ops pieces that you were reading mere days after we met, eagerly asking me “what’s staff ed about this week?” and being my rock when I was stressed, you have made me feel so supported with what I’ve done for The Hatchet and with everything else. Sunday brunch is in order the very first week that I don’t have a noon staff meeting.

My family: For my entire time in college, you have all been so supportive of everything I’ve done at The Hatchet and beyond, and it means the world to me. Mom and Daniel – Thank you for enduring my periodic rambles about what I was writing while I was home during the early months of the pandemic, and offering me feedback and helping me think up synonyms. You both really deserve co-bylines on most of the pieces I wrote during that time. Dad – Thank you for frequently sending my pieces around to the whole family when they got published online, sometimes even before I woke up that morning. Bim, Pie, Mary and Noreen – Thank you for consistently being some of the biggest fans of whatever I wrote.


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