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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Lillianna Byington: Making every headline count


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.

Until my last day as editor in chief, I was arguing about headlines.

The headline is the first thing people see. It determines how many people read an article, frames the rest of the piece and it can even change the way people remember a story. But it took me years to fully understand why they are so important.

About four years ago, I was an eager freshman sitting on the floor in the closet of my five-person Thurston Hall dorm room calling experts for one of my first articles at The Hatchet. Back then, I looked up to the editors who could help turn my reporting into a complete story with a headline that fully encapsulated an article I spent so much time working on.

Before I knew it, The Hatchet became my life. Reporting for an independent student newspaper sometimes meant sitting in the townhouse at 10 p.m. on a Friday night and more often than not, it meant being declined and hung up on when reporting a story that some people don’t want told. But when I was a reporter and news editor, I was proud to read my byline accompanying an article I worked hard to make happen and got a rush when I heard people talking about a story I spent weeks writing.

When I became editor in chief, I knew I wouldn’t see my byline or feel that same reporting rush. But I knew how much responsibility came with the job and that I would find pride in so many other ways. There would be freshman reporters like me waiting to see the final product and every headline I wrote, altered and approved had to reflect the story and do justice for the effort that was put into the article.

I quickly learned that it isn’t as easy as it seems.

In my third issue as editor in chief, I messed up. I spelt seeking with three e’s in a headline in the print edition. I came to this realization at 4:30 a.m. – when the paper had already gone to print. In what seemed like a hopeless effort, I emailed and called to stop the printer so I could change my mistake.

I decided it was probably a lost cause and went to sulk as I took a shower, defeated in making what felt like a huge error so early on. Then I got a call from Silver Communications printing. They said I could make the change if I sent a new version in 15 minutes.

Before I could think twice, I ran out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair, threw on some clothes and started sprinting down the street to The Hatchet’s townhouse. Luckily, it was raining so it nicely washed the shampoo out of my hair. I made it just in time, changed the headline and sent the new version.

I’ve never been more proud than the moment I found out I would be editor in chief. That day I made a promise to myself to put everything I had into this position and sometimes it drove me crazy, down to the letter. But every headline was worth it. Whether it was a small research story or a front page investigation, every article deserved time and effort. I agonized over the words in each article and the headline on every story. Of course, one reason is because The Hatchet has a reputation to uphold and headlines are a reflection of that, but that’s only a small part of it. The real reason why each letter in every headline meant so much was because of the people. I have never met a group of more impressive, passionate and hard-working individuals than I have on this staff.

The Hatchet is a team. Every story goes through reporters, several editors, gets paired with impressive visuals from talented photographers and designers who all put effort into what ends up being published. I’m beyond words proud of what this staff has accomplished this year and playing a part in that has made this experience the most rewarding year of my life.

When I sat down to write this article the day it was set to publish, I didn’t know what the headline should be or how I would be able to tell my final words to The Hatchet. But then I realized I couldn’t. There isn’t one headline that can sum up an experience that changed your life or one article that can fully encompass all that this organization has given to me.

This job has taught me more than I could ever imagine but most importantly, I have learned to value every person who plays a role in the final product. The Hatchet wouldn’t be what it is without the people that work so hard to make it happen.

[gwh_image id=”1056141″ credit=”” align=”none” size=”embedded-img”]Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor[/gwh_image]

It’s been hard for me to let go this past couple weeks as I step away from The Hatchet because under all of the work and headlines is a crazy Hatchet family. So to each and every wild family member, thank you:

Robin: Before I told people that I was going to run for editor in chief, you always had confidence in me. From every late night spent in the townhouse to the endless Snapchat selfies, you’ve always been there for me. I used to think you could get close to anyone, you have this uncanny ability to get people to love you and I quickly followed suit. You were the first real best friend I had at The Hatchet. And although you made a mark by knowing all the gossip, I could always trust you. Thank you for pushing me to run for EIC and for staying best friends with me when I wasn’t around as much this year.

Jacqueline: Thank you for being my editor from day one. So many people on the Hatchet will say the same, but I can say with complete confidence that I learned more from you than I did most professors. Your drive to publish quality work always inspired me. You pushed me to be better, and I will always be grateful for that.

Lila Weatherly: We started this Hatchet journey together when we were thrown on staff and then attached at the hip for survival. Thanks for asking me to prom freshman year and for being the first person that made me love The Hatchet.

Zach Montellaro: From reading my platform when I was freaking out to listening to me gripe, I’ve always been grateful to have you there for me. I’ve admired how you step up to the plate whenever someone needs a hand, whether that be at a party, taking over the Alumni Association or in any job that you’ve had. I can’t wait to watch you continue to accomplish things that I can brag about. And take good care of the Alumni Association, I’ll be watching.

Avery: I have always looked up to you, not only for your quirky humor and ability to make everyone believe you have it together 24/7, but also for the way you made so many of your reporters care about what we do here. I can’t wait to spend more time together now that I will be a ~real adult~ (read with arm movements).

Victoria: I know it took us a while to get to know one another, but now I couldn’t imagine not having you as a friend. Your social media feedback has been appreciated this year and your sass is always welcome. Thanks for all the laughs, the 50 Cent clickbait, the endless olive debate and your friendship.

Brandon: When we were both on staff, I regret not getting to know you better. But I’m glad we’ve changed that. Thanks for joining the Board and for our monthly Deli ritual, I always looked forward to it.

Ellie, Colleen, Brianna: I have only had strong female leaders as role models for editor in chiefs before me. You all made me want this job and your guidance when I was figuring out my goals as I decided to run was greatly appreciated. Thanks for setting a precedent of high standards for me to follow. Ellie: Thank you for training me and showing me how to lead this organization with professionalism.

Justine: I thoroughly enjoyed our brief time on the news team together and always looked up to how genuinely kind you are. Your work ethic impressed me and your constant compassion for others is rare, always hold on to that. We’ve all missed you this semester.

James: I always appreciated how eager and willing you were to take on more responsibility. Even though you were only on staff for a short time, I know you will be able to write stories that make an impact next year. And thanks for making the source list – it was “bitchin.”

Ethan: Although I’ll probably never forgive you for the mashed potato mishap, I was always thankful that you would ask me if I wanted anything to eat before you ordered. Thanks for coming to the townhouse in the middle of the night if drive stopped working. With that mindset to help out wherever you’re needed, you will continue to accomplish so much at The Hatchet.

Barbara: I knew when we were looking for a contributing sports editor that you would be the perfect person for the job. You have this uncanny ability to uplift the spirits of anyone around you and make any room light up. Never let go of that optimism, it will serve you well as you take on this important and difficult section. I’m looking forward to seeing where you take it.

Meredith: I have given you a lot of flack this year – from your interesting ensembles to sleeping in the townhouse more nights than I can count. But that’s because I know you can take it. I admire that you are unapologetically yourself all the time. You have shown how strong you are, through the late nights and complicated stories – your dedication is impressive. For that, I don’t think I’ve thanked you enough. I look forward to continue watching you grow as a journalist.

Arianna: Your willingness to jump into any project and try out new things has blown me away over this whole year. You took on the podcast without hesitation, you constantly have new ideas for the video section and I know you will continue to be a great leader on staff. Keep thinking out of the box and pushing the visual sections, it’s the future of the paper.

Leah: Last year when I had to give up my precious beats, I was thrilled that I gave them to you. You have handled some of the most delicate and complicated issues on this campus and you have always done it with professionalism, talent and ethics. You can be harsh in your reporting but you are such a genuinely sweet and polite person. I have always thought that you were beyond your years and I can’t wait to continue following your career.

Nathan: Thank you for always taking this paper to new heights, whether it be developing an app or improving our website – you are the reason why our content looks so good online. For every last minute landing page and tech question, I was lucky to have you around to be so responsive and willing.

Keren: You are a very talented photographer and videographer that I was proud to work with. It truly showed in your DACA video that earned such high recognition. You will go far in producing impactful visual journalism in the future and I hope to see some of it in The Hatchet next year.

Olivia Dupree: You have been such a positive presence on staff and always willing to offer a helping hand or even a compliment. Keep your optimism next year, I know you and Zach will continue to make a great team.

Yonah: Although we’ve had our differences, I think you have made strides with the graphics we have published this year. You have always been a passionate person, willing to argue for what you think is right and that is commendable.

Melissa S: From the start, I have been exceptionally lucky to have you as a copy editor. You are meticulous and have caught so many of my mistakes. I didn’t realize just how important your role was until I became EIC. Thank you for polishing our content and always improving the final product. Even though I held you hostage late into almost every Sunday night, it was always a blast to have you there. Not only did you catch my mistakes, but there are so many memories I have laughing with you as we put the paper to bed.

Emma: Thank you for jumping onto the podcast this year. It has been a pleasure to watch you grow into that role and really find a place at The Hatchet. I look forward to hearing the next podcast produced by Emma Tyrrell. Thanks for catching all my copy errors and brightening my day with your contagious laugh.

Shwetha: Although I was disappointed that you decided to graduate early, I was so lucky to have you on staff first semester. You made an amazing team with Irene and always brought such a unique and informed voice to the opinions section and the editorial board.

Renee: You’ve really stepped up to the challenge. Quickly moving from contributing editor to leading a section is a big transition but you have impressed me. This section is not easy to be in charge of but it is one of the most rewarding to help people articulate their opinions and watch as it can make a real difference.

Matt D: From the first time I met you, I knew that you would make a great culture editor. Your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking will push the next volume to take risks. You have big shoes to fill, but I know you will step up to the challenge and I can’t wait to read it.

Kevin C: Although I can’t count how many times I tagged you on the Twerkflow to fill out the budget, you always came through. You are a talented photographer but I know you will be an asset as business manager next year. It is a difficult but vital job for the paper. If you keep the enthusiasm you have for the role now, I know you’ll do great.

Dani: You were the most memorable interview I had when I was hiring the staff of Volume 114. You told a story about running after a car that was selling Chinese food because you thought there was a story. Not only did that make me laugh but it gave me so much confidence in you as a journalist. That type of personality and drive to get the story will push you to do great things with the Metro section and in your future career.

Liz K: Thank you for stepping up when we needed you to this year and for being the inaugural blog editor. I hope your enthusiasm for blogs (not bees) is passed to your successor.

Elise: I still remember finding you in the basement of District House last year. You impressed everyone with your dedication to the SA election coverage. It was complicated and I always looked up to how you handled that stressful situation with careful journalism. I know you will be able to use those experiences to make a compassionate managing director.

Grace Gannon: When you went abroad, I was sad that I never got to know you. But when an opportunity to join staff came at the end of last semester, I was so glad you took it.
Although we didn’t get to work together for a long time, I was always impressed by your ability to take to social media fast and I always enjoyed your newsletters. I know how strong you are and that you will accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

Lauren and Sarah Roach: Like both of you, I started my time on staff as a fact checker before I became an editor. Being on the news team is one of the hardest jobs on staff. You both came on this year and have made your mark. I can’t wait to see where you take this paper in the years to come. Annie: Copy keeps us all in check, and I know you will do a great job with it next year. Thanks for working on stories with me back in the day, you were always a great reporter.

Zach Slotkin: When you told me you were coming back, I was thrilled. Your willingness to change a page in the late hours of the night and your creativity has pushed design to new levels this semester. Every EIC that works with you, raves about your demeanor and talent. Lucky for me, I got to know you even more in our trip to Israel and I’m glad to call you a friend. I’ll check for the PDFs every Monday morning because I can’t wait to see what you do.

Olivia Anderson: I didn’t get to know you that well until this year and I regret that. The obvious facts about you include your exceptional photography skills and your cool fashion sense, but this year I have learned how meticulous you are to get the perfect photo and that you can be an extremely powerful leader. Thanks for taking the photo team to new heights this year.

Irene: The news/editorial divide is a real one. When I was on the news team, I remember how hard it was to get to know anyone else, especially in the ops section. But I’m so glad we were able to. I remember looking forward to your sass everyday in class last year and still need to thank you for doing the majority of our “shared” study guides. When I became EIC, I was beyond lucky to have you for an ops editor and a friend. You are so dedicated to your section and have taken on hard topics and feedback this year while balancing so many other things, you should be so proud of yourself – I know I am.

Cayla: When Andrew and I were hiring editors, I wasn’t sure about you. You barely had bylines and you were working another job. But I have never been more wrong. Every day you impressed me with your raw talent and drive.You have written the biggest stories this year, raked up more bylines than me (sad) and blew everyone away with your abilities. So thank you for working your ass off and producing award winning content, you are really something. As SNE, I know you will do the same. Remember that every line you rewrite is worth it and every headline you are proud of deserves a fight, just ask Andrew. At this time last year, I had my doubts about you. But now, I can say with confidence that I have no doubt you will run a groundbreaking news team next year. And through the tough times, don’t lose that classic scammer Cayla charm, it’s one of my favorite things about you.

Liz Provencher: I am so proud of you. From increasing the amount of content to stand out culture guides, you proved yourself in every project and every story. When I think about how many strides you have made in the culture section this year, I am confident that you will do the same for Volume 115. This job you are taking on is a big one, it is time consuming but it will be the best year of your life. Value every minute you spend in the townhouse, every word you write and every person you hire. Before you know it, it’ll be over. You are so capable and I will be proudly watching on the sidelines. Through it all, never forget that you are truly the definition of a badass woman. Thanks for being my friend this year. I cherish every late night we spent in my office and every piece of gossip you kept me informed with. Even though the job will be overwhelming, don’t lose fun Liz. You can have the best of both worlds.

To Volume 115 and all future Hatcheteers: You have a big year of news ahead of you and I look forward to seeing what you accomplish. Always remember to push the limits. Try new things and don’t be afraid to make your own rules, it’s the only way to improve.

Melissa H: From Paris to prom, I’m so glad we have become close. You impress me in everything you do. You handle yourself with poise, get everything done before you need to and know how to organize the masses. It’s been quite a year, and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to stand by me as managing director. You will go wherever you want in life and I am glad that I will get to watch the journey. If anyone tries to call you Anne Coulter again, I’ll fight them.

Sam Hardgrove: You made me laugh when I was stressed, wrestled me when you hijacked my Snapchat and most importantly, have always been a best friend when I needed one. Thank you for that. You have always brought fun and light to The Hatchet, but that is only a small part of what you have done for this institution. It took me a little while to realize that you are one of the most reliable people here. Despite our many disagreements, you have always been driven to get high-quality photography and I am constantly reminded that you are exceptionally talented. Your work ethic and value in leadership will serve you well in the Navy, but hold on to that larger than life personality – it’s your combination of qualities that I admire so much. I can’t wait to make more wild memories with you in the years to come.

Tyler: Everything I threw at you this year, you did it. When everyone asks the most annoying question about what your job is, I have about a million answers. You took over business when there was no one else, you joined the Board when I asked, you launched the podcast when I needed you to – you almost never said no. Thank you for that. You can learn a new position without anyone to guide you and that’s wildly impressive to me. I hope those investments you made in the stock market work out, and if they do, feel free to spread the wealth to me and The Hatchet.

Andrew: From day one, I knew you were meant to be senior news editor. You are stern yet compassionate and I have been blown away this year as you earned the respect and love from every news editor. But I realized early on in our friendship, that I feel the same sentiments as them. I don’t know if I can fully express how grateful I was to have you this year. Everyday I was reminded how talented you are, I can spot your writing from a mile away and that is a great thing. We have come a long way since I told people you were senile in the Metro, and I couldn’t have done it without my best friend. The SNE/EIC relationship is a delicate one, and I got lucky to have you. The memories, the favors and the yelling (mainly me) have made this experience the best year of my life. If you want to call to fight about a headline next year, you know my number.

Matt Cullen: It’s funny to look back on where we were a year ago. We joke about our rocky start but truthfully, the reason why I was always on your back is because I knew how capable you were and this year, you exceeded my expectations. Your dedication, work ethic and talent as sports editor and your voice on editorial board impressed me weekly. But that’s not even close to why I owe so much gratitude to you. Thank you for being there for me this year – for staying late most days, listening to me yell, putting your all into every single story, arguing with me about diction, pushing me to be a better editor and trusting me. It’s meant everything. As managing editor, I have no doubt that you will push this paper to be better and you will exceed my expectations yet again. I can’t wait to see it. And although I hate that I’m one of the so-called 21 percent, I love that it’s because of you. Thanks for everything, B.

Here’s the last piece of news I will be writing for The Hatchet – I do have a life outside the townhouse. Yes, it’s true. And my outside friends and family have been so understanding of this job. So I need to thank them: I couldn’t have done it without you.

Alli, Amanda, Estephania, Hillary: Thanks for visiting me in D.C. when I couldn’t come home and for being my best friends. The friendship we have built is lasting and I can’t wait for all the memories to continue.

Caroline: Looking back to our first interaction, I would have never imagined that four years later we would still be roommates or that you would be my best friend. Thanks for reminding me that there is a world outside the Hatchet and for living with me. I look forward to coming home everyday because of you. Although we are different, we are both crazy and I think that’s worked well as a common denominator. Don’t know where I would be without you, probably passed out in J. Paul’s. Marie: Thanks for stress eating with me and for understanding the struggle that is our lives. For the many laughs, the drinks and the craziness, I have been grateful to you. Believe it or not, it kept me sane. Priyanka: My rock, Board member and fellow badass woman, you are amazing. You will go wherever you want in life because of your tenacity. You push everyone around you to be their best selves because that is the example you set everyday. Never lose that.

My parents: This year, I have pushed myself and my staff to do their best. Everything I know I learned from the both of you. Mom: Thank you will never be enough for what you have done for me, from taking my phone call when I ran to change the paper at 5 a.m. to listening to me decide on headlines, you are and always will be my best friend. Dad: When I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, you knew from the start. That editor in chief was what I wanted more than anything else. Thank you for helping me see that and for always believing in me. Everyday I strive to make you proud.

Adam: I’m glad I’m not the only writer in the family, thanks for always being there not only for me but for our family. I can’t be there most of the time, but I will forever be grateful that you have been. Your talent and compassion will get you where you want to go in life, don’t give up on your dreams.

To my grandfather: I’m sorry you won’t get to read this, but you were the first person to believe that I could be a writer. For that I am eternally grateful. I promised you years ago that I would dedicate something I wrote to you. Everything I have done this year, I dedicate to you.


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