Jarrod Wardwell: Shining a light

Media Credit: Sage Russell | Staff Photographer

“GW SHUT DOWN” was the all-caps headline that blanketed the front page of The Hatchet on a Wednesday in May 53 years ago.

The year was 1970, and public demonstrations against the Vietnam War were in full swing across the United States. GW students had rushed the building currently known as the University Student Center earlier that week after four college students were killed in the Kent State shootings in Ohio. The students who occupied the building dedicated it as the “Kent State Memorial Center” to honor the victims and protest the University’s complicity in the war.

Instead of listening to the calls of students, administrators opted to name the building in the following year after Cloyd Heck Marvin, a former University president who enforced a segregationist admissions policy into the 1950s. Students walked out of the ceremony inaugurating the new namesake to protest GW’s blatant disregard for students’ outrage over military aggression and systemic racism.

I came to learn about this story when I had the chance to report on it during a University committee’s review of the historical context surrounding the building leading up to GW’s decision to rename the Marvin Center in 2021. The Hatchet articles on the protests were part of the documents the committee examined to inform its recommendation to the Board of Trustees ahead of the name change.

The story is a testament to the spirit and outrage of the American public during the Vietnam War and the University’s bundle of systemic flaws. But for me, it has stood for The Hatchet’s timeless role to shine a light on student voices and the administration’s willingness, or lack thereof, to listen to them.

The newspaper has existed for generations and cycled through thousands of student journalists who have spent hours upon end trying to perfect its coverage of the chaotic world that is GW. From the students who organized on campus during the Vietnam War to those who gather outside the F Street House today, The Hatchet has been there to cover it all with a mission centered on its representation of the students it serves.

Yet this mission for The Hatchet to illuminate those voices hasn’t always been so simple and perfect.

Much of my time here has involved coming to terms with the newspaper’s shortcomings in covering students on campus fairly and equitably. As is the case with newsrooms across the United States, The Hatchet is a historically white publication with a reputation of neglecting and misrepresenting students of color.

But the process that has made the job of leading this more than century-old newspaper so meaningful has been learning the ways to right those wrongs and steer The Hatchet in a direction where it can execute its mission to its fullest potential. Shining a light on the stories in need of telling is impossible without breaking outside the walls of our 21st Street townhouse and going to find them ourselves.

The self-awareness of the places we have to grow has been one of the biggest culture changes I’ve seen at The Hatchet this past year. And it has directly translated to our focus on restoring our relations with the community we are committed to reflect.

But those steps are just the first. We’re nowhere close to where we need to be, and much work lies ahead to get us there.

To the next volume, never lose sight of the human element in the stories you tell. Tell stories not because you must but because you can. There is a campus history waiting to be written. You have a special job ahead of you to chronicle it with years of hard work, sacrifice and a whole lot of heart that has paved the way for you. Don’t forget that.

Sage Russell | Staff Photographer

Two days before my last at The Hatchet, I had the chance to attend an event that a group of the newspaper’s alumni who graduated in the late 1960s and 1970s organized. They said it was the first time they got together for an event of that size in decades.

There, I got to hear the stories from the former students who were on campus that day in 1970 and at the many other high-tension and emotion-filled protests of the time. They told me about students who were arrested on campus, tear gas that was sprayed and endless news assignments that they banded together to tackle in hopes of bringing a source of justice to that critical point in history.

As I heard these old friends look back on these stories they told together, I saw myself in them as well as the friends I’ve made at The Hatchet during my four years at GW. The stakes might not be the same this May in 2023, but we sure have the same spirit and the understanding that our work for The Hatchet is bigger than ourselves. It’s bigger than 2023, and it’s bigger than the hours of sleep, or even grades, we might lose along the way.

We’re chronicling history as it unfolds and shining a light on the voices that will continue to ring loud and clear for generations to come. 

To my family:

Faith: You have always been such a naturally gifted writer, and I’ve been so proud watching your talents spill onto the pages of The Hatchet these past two years. As student life editor, your creativity and flare for news have especially blossomed, and I know you have such big things lying ahead of you. You may have been dubbed the nepo baby of The Hatchet, but I can’t wait to see you continue blazing your own trail in the years ahead. You’re such a great storyteller and an even better person. I guess it’s been alright having you around these past couple years.

Mom: I know how much The Hatchet has made you worried about me since I’ve jumped into being an editor, but it looks like I’ve made it out the other side in one piece! Your care and support through it all has been such a source of comfort. I promise to start getting more sleep and eating more of my meals now.

Dad: Watching you direct the most watched and trusted news in Boston through the biggest stories of the past two decades has taught me and Faith so many important lessons about the industry, from the work ethic it requires to the discipline and decisiveness of a newsroom leader. I’ve seen you sacrifice so much for news to be told the right way, and that has been so inspirational to witness for so long. But your lessons about balance aren’t lost on me either, and it’s something I will continue to prioritize throughout my life while remembering the family values that matter most.

To staff:

Isha: You were an absolute expert at your craft at The Hatchet and turned in some of the most impactful reporting over not one, but two volumes. I’m so lucky to have worked on the same team as you for so long — you made me such a better editor as we worked alongside one another over the years. The way you advocated for stories, structural changes and everything in between at the newspaper is responsible for shifting the culture in the townhouse. As administration editor, you pushed me more than anyone to be the best I possibly could for The Hatchet, and the tenacity in your coverage was contagious. And your news expertise and leadership were so valuable to have as managing editor last year. I know you’ll have no problem paving your own path wherever you work in the future.

Lauren: I’m glad we got to be so much closer since our student life reporting days even if it meant toughing out late night SA blog edits in the townhouse midweek. Watching your skills flourish as the student government editor made me so proud of the leaps and bounds you took with every story. The connections and relationships you made with your sources were so critical to our coverage of the Student Association, and you set us up for a successful year of coverage this volume. I think all of staff can agree you were one of the most supportive MDs we could ask for just by your friendly personality and openness to talk whenever that’s what someone needs. I was so happy for you when I heard you got snagged by The Hill right as you were graduating, and I know you’ll continue to thrive post-grad.

Zach Blackburn: The trajectory of your growth as a writer, reporter, editor and overall member of The Hatchet has been one of my favorites to think about during the past few years. You came to campus for the first time as a sophomore metro editor without much experience with the beat or the newspaper, and since then, you’ve become one of the sharpest eyes on staff through both your coverage and the section you’ve led. You accepted yet another unexpected challenge this past month, and if anyone can handle that, it’s you. Keep doing what you’re doing because I’ve been so proud of the editor you’ve become.

Nick: You are one of the most genuine and down to earth people I’ve met during my time at GW, and as someone who is so passionate about journalism, your character shines through your work in every which way. You have a sharp idea of what The Hatchet needs and when it needs it in terms of our coverage, and it will be in such good hands with you helping to run the show. After we promoted you to be a news editor, you took no time to show how well you could handle such complicated stories and serious issues in your reporting. Since taking on news management, you’ve proven yourself to be a natural leader who I know will steer the newspaper in the right direction this next year.

Jaden: When Isha and I were planning who would fill her shoes in management after she graduated, there was not much conversation before you were the obvious choice, and it was the right one. Whether you were cracking the code of WordPress and fixing a broken site or stepping in to edit sports coverage, knowing that I could count on you for whatever kind of help I needed was such a blessing this spring. And the way you can write about basketball is so poetic, might I add. I know the past month has been an especially stressful one for you, but the point remains the same — the skill and precision of your edits have kept the quality of the newspaper intact these past two years. You have given so much to the newspaper, and any type of additional support it gets from you is a win.

Abby: You’ve always been such a bright light to have around the townhouse and bring such a positive energy to staff — that all made you the perfect person to help us out on management during these past few months. I’m so glad we were able to have you around on the team for another year this past volume.

Amanda: To one of the most fun people on staff, getting to know you better this past year has been a blast. There’s never a dull moment at budgeting meetings with you, from the Hatchet gossip sessions to the video ideas we’d go over 20 minutes later. You handled the curveball of leading video on your own and steered the section back to its days of a three-person team. And while you were at it, you cracked the top-10 most viewed Hatchet videos of all time with an absolute banger. Wishing you all the best in the entertainment PR world. You’re going to have a blast, and hopefully you stick to the east coast.

Grace Miller: Somehow you pull off being both the life of the basement gang and the mind behind the remarkable pages you lay out with such perfection, and having you in both roles has been so great these past two years. Some of my favorite Hatchet memories are just the two of us cracking up late at night for no good reason or you peeking out of the big red suitcase. I’m so glad you’ll be managing director next year — you’ve deserved it. You have a side of compassion for others that will be such a valuable resource for staff next year. And remember to pass that on to not only staff, but also reporters, photographers, videographers, etc.

Clara: Dating back to my days as metro editor, I always knew a story would be in good shape if it had your name on it. As an editor, you were a staunch defender of culture, its stories and all the section stood for on The Hatchet. Your eye for content that drifts away from the status quo has transformed the scope of what we cover from a culture perspective, and that’s no accident. I witnessed the effort you put in to hold your reporters to the proper standard of quality week in and week out, and the section is better off today because of it.

Julia: It’s crazy to think how many roles you’ve filled since joining as a brand new staff member just a year ago. Since then, you’ve filled each of them with such skill and aptitude and shined as a star on the paper. Your writing blew me away when I first started editing your work, and I’ve come to appreciate every end of your pop culture fandom because of it. I can tell you have everything it takes to make it big as a culture writer professionally, and maybe we can grab lunch sometime when you’re not interviewing A-list celebrities in a few years.

Nicholas: I got to see your work ethic and natural intelligence on display in the class we shared in the fall, and it made perfect sense for the work and precision you put into the graphics on the paper. You were an excellent selection for community relations director for the next volume, and I’m so excited to see what you do with the position.

Grace Chinowsky: I watched from a distance as you mastered metro on the news team before turning into an immediate pro as you started transitioning to your new role for the next volume. Your composure, discipline and quick thinking on some of the most difficult stories of the semester have been signs of what a great SNE you’re going to become. As a former metro editor myself, the immediate switch to leading the news team wasn’t easy for me, and I’ve seen you handle that learning curve incredibly well thus far. Hold your news team to the standard you expect of them next year and don’t let that waver. The results will pay off in return.

Tara: Since our days in student life, you’ve delivered a constant stream of bylines to the newspaper over the past four years. I know it hasn’t been easy, but the work you’ve put in has paid dividends in sharpening your skills one year after another. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you over the past four years, from staff at The Hatchet to shared classes at SMPA. Wishing you all the best after graduation.

Erika: Covering the SA for a full year is no small task, and you did it during one of the most unusual years of student government news in quite a while. The sheer grit you have when it comes to reporting and taking on as much as you possibly can at any given moment is so admirable and will make you a fantastic metro editor next volume. Feel free to reach out with any questions or advice about the beat.

Sophia: I appreciated the number of questions you were willing to ask me about whichever story you happened to be working on at the time. It showed not only how much you cared about your work but also your willingness to learn on the job, which is a really important feature to have. I thoroughly enjoyed the creative spin you put on the health and research beat as its editor. As an investigations writer, don’t hesitate to sit down with as many students and faculty as possible from all across campus. Stay curious and keep asking questions.

Caitlin: You’re such a gifted writer and handled a complicated beat with grace this past year. Your methodical and careful handling of stories turned in some powerful stories that made your beat a special source of news. The next wave of reporters are going to learn a lot from you as you head the training process in the fall. The more feedback they hear beyond the virtual space of a Google Doc will set them on the right path, and I know you’ll have quality lessons to pass down.

Ianne: The news that comes out of the administration beat tends to be a reflection of the time and research an editor is willing to put into it. So the fact that you’ll be back on the beat next volume with a year of experience behind you was so reassuring to hear. Remember to lean into those source meetings and set aside the time to research potential leads because the stories you write on the administration will often be ones that you find by looking as opposed to those that crop up on their own. I can’t wait to see what you’re able to report on next year.

Nikki: I really enjoyed reading your work on student life this volume. With each that you took, the care and thoughtfulness you had for each story that your sources would share would shine through in the article. That experience will serve you so well as you pivot to features in the future, and I know you’re going to great in that position.

Eóighan: You were such a helpful addition to the news team this spring and sharpened your skills just about immediately when you joined staff. I enjoyed overhearing whatever wacky things you had to say in the newsroom while I was in the EIC — it truly brightened my day and was a real morale boost for the news team from what I could tell.

Ethan: You make flawless editorial writing look effortless. I have so much respect for how seriously you take your work, and I’m so glad I asked Andrew to check on whether you were applying to staff last spring. You have brought airtight management and leadership to the section and have all the qualities that should exist in an editor. Keep it up.

Riley: Your perspective brought some of the sharpest and most creative pitches to budgeting meetings during the fall and saved plenty more that came from your writers. You write with such passion and emotion, and it was a privilege being your editor. I’m excited to see what you continue to accomplish next volume.

Nuria: You have had to put up with so much handling what has turned out to be one of the most unfavorable jobs on The Hatchet during the past volume. You worked through some really tough situations with such grit and kept the section together single-handedly. The future of the section has you to thank for it.

Luke: You are such a talented sports writer and have found your voice seamlessly on the newspaper. I’ve seen you learn a lot this spring, and I know you have all the tools it takes to make the section into something special next volume. Believe in yourself.

Auden: You were such a kind and positive addition to the basement gang this volume and helped turn a thinned section into one of The Hatchet’s strong suits. The volume got off to a crazy start last May, and the photos you took were some of the biggest pieces of our coverage in those first weeks. I’m confident that photo will be in safe hands in the next year with another round of your leadership.

Danielle: I wouldn’t ask for any other news photo editor to manage assignments with during my time as SNE. One of my proudest moments of becoming EIC was convincing you to stick around on staff after you told me that wasn’t in the cards. You’ve turned features into one of the most impressive parts of the newspaper through your creative and artistic way of thinking. I let you do your thing, and you never failed to take advantage of new opportunities with stunning photos. Stay chill.

Rachel, Lily and Jordyn: The photo section has blossomed from basic building shots to images capturing the active scenes around campus thanks to each of you. I’ve enjoyed seeing the great work your beats have turned in each week under your guidance. The photos you have taken have given life to the written work that staff had worked so hard to produce.

Ethan Valliath: The mind behind the revival of The Hatchet’s Instagram. From the moment I hired you to the social team, you took charge with original ideas and a fresh vision for such a key platform that has unlocked a new level of engagement for the newspaper. I hope you know how important your contributions have been to making The Hatchet accessible to students. Your presence was an absolute gamechanger this volume.

Isabella and Maura: Your level-headedness when the basement gets wacky late at night is a shared characteristic of yours that I truly admire. I’ve put a lot of trust in you when the guides come around and my artist eye can hardly tell one font or color from the other. That trust has paid its dividends, and you’ve made some really special editions of the paper that continue to set the standard for the pages we publish. The print product is in your hands next volume, and I know you’ll take good care of it. Be bold with your ideas. The Hatchet is still a newspaper first, and the vision you create for that front page will be key to the lifespan of its identity.

Cristina: You were a new section head this semester but edited like a seasoned copy veteran. The way you stand up for style and grammar during those late-night standoffs is exactly what The Hatchet needs from a strong copy chief.

Shea and Lindsay: You’ve helped hold down the fort of such an important part of the paper. The devil is in the details, so the number of times you bug editors about overly specific copy questions will be for the good of the paper.

Nora: Your voice on the culture team took on a life of its own during the spring semester, and you really found your place at the newspaper through the creativity of the ideas you brought to every budgeting meeting. Your eye for flavors and cuisines that we had yet to try in a while for Dish of the Week, kept the weekly article fresh and week in and week out.

Sarah: The culture podcast flourished during the past volume because of you, and your ideas never dulled as the months went on. The creativity you brought to budgeting meetings translated into some really special work you should be really proud of.

Sejal: As one of the most driven journalists on staff, you put your all into the stories you take on, which I have a lot of respect for as a fellow workaholic. I’ve seen you dive headfirst into the stories you unpack on the podcast, and the love and care you have for what you do really shows. Remember to always maintain balance with the commitments you take on so you don’t lose yourself in the demands of reporting the news. With balance and that passion of yours, you’ll be destined for great things down the road.

Max: I remember meeting you at the Fall Conference and being immediately impressed by how forward you were in introducing yourself as a freshman eager to get involved at The Hatchet. The drive that you have to tackle stories and lend a hand where you can has not gone unnoticed. Stay excited about the news around campus, and remember that metro is a beat for outside-the-box thinking.

Annie: You’re one of the funniest people in the townhouse and the perfect fit to host the culture podcast next volume. I’m so glad we took you up on your idea for Ask Annie — it’s become a raging success since its inception. Don’t lose the spark you provide for The Hatchet because it really makes a difference.

Eddie: Business has always been one of the biggest headaches that editors in chief have had to take on in past years, so it’s been such a relief having you around this volume. We’ve made so much progress in reviving our streams of revenue, but there is so much more untapped potential. I know you’ll carry on the work we’ve done to the volume ahead to unlock those attainable sources of fundraising and advertisements.

Ishani: You were thrown into web with little support or guidance that was absolutely less than ideal, but you agreed to fill the position nonetheless and navigate the job for an entire volume. Being able to rely on someone for landing pages whenever we had a guide come around was so huge, so thank you for handling that responsibility when we really needed you.

Lydie and Rory: Thank you both for so willfully accepting the most unglamorous job at The Hatchet this semester and agreeing to stick it out with us so late into the night during prodo. We were desperate for fact-checking support this semester, and you two came in the shape of pros when we needed you most. You have so much ahead of you on this paper.

To former staff:

Sarah: Your legacy is one of Hatchet legend. I remember looking up to you with such awe and trust when I was a newcomer to staff, and your example has been one we all aim to follow since taking over the newspaper. I have no idea how you did this job for two volumes, but your leadership set such an incredible standard for The Hatchet. I’m so glad you will be leading the charge to rebuild the Alumni Association and know you will do great work in unlocking the potential that network provides.

Lizzie: To my OG Hatchet mom, you were the real rockstar. The work ethic you demonstrated as an editor is one that staff continues to talk about today. And the fact that FOUR of your reporters have stuck around through their senior year is no mistake. Lauren, Clara, Tara, and I take pride in our origins under your wing. Forever your student life reporter!

Makena: We have been in the same class for four years, but you were a role model to me when I was a reporter. Your positive words of encouragement were so huge in helping me find the confidence I needed to be an editor. And I was so impressed with the workload you took on with such poise and discipline. Your job was by no means cut out for a freshman, and you immediately earned my respect for toughing it out. I know you’re going to do great things after graduation.

Lia: As I transitioned to metro editor and later editor in chief, I knew both times that I had big shoes to fill. Your discipline in handling two of the toughest jobs on The Hatchet made a really big impression on me and showed me exactly the kind of commitment I would need to emulate to succeed. You were one of the few people on The Hatchet I talked to during COVID, and I’ll never forget the kindness you showed me during that time. As my EIC, you were a boss who was tough to please, but that pushed me as an editor to always strive for better and hold my team to the highest standard I could. I like to think those lessons I learned under your leadership have made the paper a better place, and I thank you for that.

Jared: After fearing you as SNE, I came to know you personally as one of the sweetest and kindhearted souls I’ve met during my time at GW. You’re the classic Hatchet traditionalist and played such a crucial role in ensuring the print newspaper stuck to its roots during your fifth year here. And even since you’ve graduated, you’ve been such a reassuring voice to have in D.C. whom so many feel comfortable seeking out for advice, Hatchet-related or not. Thank you for all you’ve committed to this paper and being such a great friend all the while.

Zach Schonfeld: You are one of the most talented journalists I’ve ever met, and your reporting on GW’s administration deserves to be framed. The fact that your last name has become Hatchet slang for turning a news article into a hard-hitting expose speaks volumes of your legacy here. It’s no surprise to me how quickly you’ve broken out at The Hill, and I’m expecting you to be anchoring some primetime news program within five years. Break a leg.

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