Charting The Hatchet’s future with an emphasis on diversity

Since my freshman year, a pandemic overturned life as we knew it, the National Guard occupied campus and a Supreme Court justice stepped down from teaching a course in the face of demands for his removal.

That’s just to name a few special highlights.

The past three years have been wild and unpredictable, but every story we’ve confronted had to be told – each one cast light on the people, systems and issues that would define the current moment in University history. And through all of the major events that have rocked our campus, The Hatchet has been there to cover it all.

The 2022-23 academic year marks The Hatchet’s 119th year serving the GW community as the storyteller and record keeper for our student body. The Hatchet is an independent student newspaper completely unaffiliated with the University, meaning we can cover the institution with complete honesty, integrity and interrogation, holding the administration accountable for its actions at all times.

We have reported on GW’s hundreds of pandemic-induced layoffs, systemic racism in higher education and a University project that tracked students’ movement through campus without their knowledge. We have received numerous regional and national awards for our work across all sections, including news, opinions, culture, sports, photo, video and many more.

But we are also a student-run newspaper for a reason. We are by the students and for the students, intending to both inform and represent. After joining the newspaper during my freshman year, I quickly realized that we have not always lived up to that promise in the past.

Throughout its existence, The Hatchet has been a predominantly white organization that many students have viewed as out of touch with the larger GW community and its total diversity. We have been isolated from our student body at large, oftentimes neglecting underrepresented student groups and only covering them when some harmful, often racially-charged incident takes place on campus.

That is no way we intend to lead the paper. Starting this volume on a platform grounded in external and internal reform, The Hatchet is placing diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of what we stand for and how we operate.

First and foremost, our top priority is to improve our relationship with student organizations on campus. We strive to represent our student body in an equitable manner so we can tackle those shining achievements or pressing campus issues that are affecting underrepresented groups, like those that The Hatchet has overlooked in the past.

Leading our push toward progress, Volume 119 introduced the community relations director position in May to strengthen our connection to students across campus through newly established partnerships with student organizations. Senior Abrigail Williams has filled this role and already started developing our relationships with multicultural student organizations through one-on-one meetings, which we intend to continue on a regular basis. Our student life team is collaborating with Abrigail to establish a routine of attendance at student organizations’ general body meetings, where we hope to listen and connect with their members on a more personal level as familiar faces. We care. And we want to be there.

We are also making active efforts to open new opportunities for editorial collaboration with other students, even those who are not direct members of the paper. Anyone should be able to get involved and become published, no matter what. The Hatchet recently expanded Snapshot, a weekly photo feature of images taken across campus and D.C. at large, opening submissions to the general student body. A new freelance program is also in the works for students outside of The Hatchet to pitch stories that they can write or film through the Hatchet. We want to open more opportunities for students who may not have time to fully commit to our newspaper to still reap the benefits of the bylines and real-life journalism experience that we can offer. The program is meant to elevate more voices from our talented GW community that deserve to be heard.

Our plans to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion also include extending our recruitment efforts outside the walls of our townhouse. We plan to host joint events with other student organizations with guest speakers and require DEI training for all our members with GW officials and professionals from the field of media. Educating ourselves on how to best report with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is the least we can do as a newspaper striving to respect and represent the community we cover.

So under so much ongoing change, why join The Hatchet?

There’s no better time than now. We are expanding and growing like never before, bringing on new talent that will push the newspaper forward to a future that better represents our students. Campus life is only going to get busier from here on out as students continue to find their footing on the campus they lost for more than a year leading up to our first school year back in person. Traditions are returning, and new ones are being formed. Students are as vocal as ever. The overhaul of GW’s administration is just beginning. The lack of D.C. statehood continues to endanger the rights afforded to the District government and its constituents.

The news won’t be slowing down anytime soon, and you can count on us to never miss a beat. Don’t forget we are here for you, the students, through it all. You may not agree with every single editorial decision we make, but we will always welcome your feedback and criticism. Hearing you react to our coverage is a major way for us to learn and continue changing for the better. We take our responsibility very seriously – to keep you informed and always tell the full story, and every story. We view our jobs as an honor and a privilege, and we hope the work we do will serve you well.

Thank you so much for reading. Feel free to email jwardwell@gwhatchet.com, message me on social media or stop by The Hatchet’s townhouse to say hello, ask any questions or share your concerns. I look forward to what the year ahead will hold.

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