Clara Duhon: Finding my place in the unexpected

Media Credit: Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant 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 came into GW without a defined direction or any idea of where I wanted to dedicate my time on campus. But the one card I had to play was an open mind. Hungry to find my place, I tried out political organizations, theater groups, fine arts and seemingly everything else under the sun. While those endeavors gave me some wonderful memories and valuable skills, none of them fit quite right. When they didn’t work out, the organization I least expected to stick was The Hatchet.

For many students who have found interest in writing for The Hatchet, the paper can at first feel like a daunting, impenetrable institution for only the few willing to dedicate hours upon hours to chase down a story each day. As a freshman completely unsure of what I wanted to major in or do with the rest of my life who didn’t know the first rule of journalism, those barriers seemed even harder to break through.

Entering as an inexperienced writer with no bylines or journalism classes to my name, I nervously climbed the steps of the illustrious Hatchet townhouse to my first student life section meeting not knowing what to expect. I gradually eased into reporting for the student life and culture sections with the help of my editors, and while my stories were riddled with edits, I never got discouraged.

When the pandemic began, the shutdown allowed me to really throw myself into the paper. I took on a story or two weekly to fill up my time and with this practice, really began to learn. While writing stories about everything – from students struggling with COVID while taking online classes to psychedelic legislation in D.C. to food reviews – I moved from reporter to staff writer to contributing culture editor by April 2021. I couldn’t help but leap at the chance to sink my teeth into any story that came along.

Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant Photo Editor

Transitioning into culture editor was a dream come true for me, and with the help of amazing friends and colleagues, I could make my dreams for the section come true. I had taken a grand total of one intro journalism class at GW, but the experience I gained at this paper made me feel more than ready to take on a section head position. As I advocated for impactful culture stories to make the front page and created two new subsections of culture alongside my team, the section saw a large shift this year in the exposure, variety and content we cover. And that all started four years ago, with a desperate email I sent to the editor in chief at the time, asking to join a section.

My love of writing stories on this paper was greater than the uphill battle I had to ascend when I came on. I felt a passion for reporting on GW and D.C. like I had never felt through any other outlet. And the community I worked with didn’t make me feel discouraged – they uplifted me and had more patience than I could’ve ever expected.

Author and journalist Mitch Albom wrote “love comes when you least expect it,” but I might tack on an addendum to his sentiment. Love comes both when – and where – you least expect it. The Hatchet was the most surprising place for me, but it was the perfect fit.

To everyone who contributes their incredible work to this paper…

Lily Speredelozzi | Assistant Photo Editor

Julia: My Hatchet soul sister and pop culture educator. You joined culture staff when we needed you most, and your addition to the team was beyond a blessing in disguise. Your advocacy and love for culture is so beautiful, and you helped make the section what it is today. The next time I need to learn more about Dianna Agron’s dating history or the unfair treatment of The Chicks, I know you’ll be more than happy to dish and hyper-analyze. You’re truly a firework.

Nora: You’ve been a superstar since day one, so I was elated to see you sign up for a contrib culture interview a year ago. You bring such a distinct voice to the paper with fresh perspectives and pitches that make the culture section better. I hope to read much more of your writing – both in and outside of the paper – in the future.

Lily: If someone on staff were a real life angel, I think it would be you. You’re not only the sweetest, you’re also such an amazing person to work with and offer so much support when I get tunnel vision, overrun with things to do. Your photos are my absolute favorites – and I could ask no one better to go on a 30s photoshoot excursion with me and Julia. I can’t wait to see what you do next year.

Jarrod: I couldn’t have asked for a better EIC this year – you were willing to take a chance with culture, and you’re a Cautious Clay fan (win-win). Your drive and willpower are unmatched, and you never let a stressful situation get in the way of compassion. While your pop culture knowledge might be a little slim, you’re a born leader, and I’m excited to read many more of your pieces in the future.

Zach: The most talented writer and editor I have the pleasure of knowing. From basketball coverage to culture reviews to breaking huge stories, this paper is so lucky to publish your limitless talent for writing. You’ve stepped up to the ultimate leadership position, and I could not be more confident in you. I’m beyond proud of you and can’t wait to see where your leadership takes this publication. Watching you write and edit day in and day out, you never shined so brightly, in your element working devotedly on a story.

Ethan: You’re such a pure Hatchet talent, and our paper is so lucky to have you. From your animated character voices you put on in Ed Board to your guidance on Ask Annie, your presence is always a delight. Can’t wait to read all of your next pieces to come!

Annie: After editing several of your drafts – some of the most unorthodox, engaging stories culture has seen in years – I knew you were a gem of The Hatchet. You found your perfect place(s) in the paper, and I’m very eager to listen to your culture podcast ventures in the new volume – perhaps one about knitting?

Michelle: My twin flame star baby and the most immaculate health and sciences editor. Even though you left GW to go a little “upstate,” your legacy at The Hatchet is unforgettable. You’re the most hardworking person I know, and I’m so happy for you in your new leadership role. No matter how many times you try to escape the chaotic world of journalism, it keeps beckoning you back in. Nevertheless, one of the best things this paper did was put us together and give us many obstacles to bond over. You’re going to do incredible things, and I can’t wait to have a front row seat to them all.

Nuria and Tara: You two are always down to take a culture story, even if it means hitting up five clubs on a Saturday night for research purposes. So excited to see all the amazing things you do in years to come.

Isha and Lauren: Culture’s top cheerleaders! You both have always had insane amounts of respect from me, producing such admirable work as news editors. Crossing paths with both of you is always a delight.

Anna Boone: The absolute greatest of all time! Writing stories for you and running culture with you last year was such an incredible learning experience. You set the bar and shaped the writer and editor I am today, and I am so appreciative of that. Thanks for being such a wonderful leader.

Nick Perkins: From an anecdote of a prominent Beach Boy saying “hi queen!” to the actual queen of England to rankings of jumbo slice pizza spots, your pieces are an absolute joy to edit. You’re such a fast learner and it’s been amazing to see you grow on this paper. I can’t wait to read more stellar feature stories from you and certainly more movie reviews!

Jenna: The minute you suggested Crumbs & Whiskers as the best spot to break up for our Best of Northwest guide, I knew you would come up with some of the best editorial ideas the culture section has ever seen. Your writing is always an absolute treat to read, and I’m so eager to see you bring more creativity and engagement to culture next volume. You’re a star asset to our team. Keep killing the game with your Ask Annie cartoons.

My family and friends: Your support in my fluctuating endeavors means the world to me. For all the times I couldn’t take a call or go out because of Hatchet work, I truly appreciate the extensive patience. I am the writer I am today because of you.

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