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The GW Hatchet


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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Zach Schonfeld: Chasing adventure

Grace Hromin | Senior 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 have always sought out the adventure in life.

I’m like the typical passenger you see arriving at an airport: excited to explore something new, but a bit stressed amid the chaos.

For my first assignment at The Hatchet, I interviewed a student serving as a local elected official about an upcoming crosswalk installation on H Street.

I had no journalism experience and missed reporter training, but my editor encouraged me to co-byline the story with her and coached me through how to conduct an interview. So, I thought to myself, “How complicated could a crosswalk be?”

After we sat down, the local official rolled out blueprints detailing every technical specification. Suddenly, my list of prepared questions was moot. I had no idea what to ask.

Wanting to do well, I spent hours afterward combing through the design to make sense of it. Eventually, I thought I had understood the full story.

But by time the piece ran, becoming my first byline, my editor had reworked most of my writing. My lengthy prose detailing every design aspect was reduced to just a few sentences.

Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

The published story included a hypervigilant student body advocating to the University. Students influencing government, even on hyperlocal issues. Administrators who wanted to provide a positive student experience but also worried about costs.

That’s complicated for a crosswalk.

I clearly had a lot to learn. As an endlessly curious person, I was intrigued. My editor encouraged me to take another piece. Soon enough, another. Then, another.

As I would see time and time again at The Hatchet, even the most pedestrian topics can lead to some interesting stories. To see it, you just had to make sense of the chaos.

I eventually started to get the hang of my initial beat, and my editors encouraged me near the end of my freshman year to switch gears to the finance section.

I didn’t want to start from scratch, but intrigued once again, I reluctantly agreed to try it out. I took my first assignment – a story about GW’s hiring of an outside consultant to lead a review of the University president.

It seemed like another blip in never-ending chaos.

I made more than my fair share of mistakes along the way, but slowly, the finance beat became the lens through which I understood GW.

The more I learned, the more I saw GW’s challenges rooted in its setup as a nonprofit corporation. GW pursues educational and research missions. The constraint becomes the bottom line.

With this in mind, we renamed the finance beat as the administration beat. Over the next few years, I found telling that story to be quite the adventure.

If nothing else, those challenges exposed severe mistrust between GW’s constituencies. And, just like the crosswalk, there was a lot to take in at each small step.

[gwh_image id=”1163320″ credit=”Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor” align=”none” size=”embedded-img”][/gwh_image]

But from all that chaos, what has stood out to me as the bigger story during these past four years is not a change in president, but instead a unified recognition of this highly damaging conflict by all parties.

For my last assignment at The Hatchet, I listened as faculty endorsed a new public commitment that aims to eliminate this mistrust. Trustees are slated to approve these shared governance principles next month, the product of months of behind-the-scenes collaboration.

I’m confident GW is now headed on the path to preeminence it has sought to achieve because of it.

But for me, exploring this story didn’t just become the adventure that took up most of my time at college – it became a home in which I was lucky enough to work alongside some of the most hardworking and thoughtful people I’ve ever met.

I know they will continue telling that story, wherever the chaos may lead.

Now, it’s time to explore something new.

To those who shared this adventure with me:

Alec: It has been quite the journey, and I’m not sure where to begin ­– roommates, The Hatchet, classes or everything else in between. I don’t know how you aren’t sick of me yet, but I’m glad you became one of the constants during these crazy four years. Your friendship will be one of things I treasure most from GW.

The administrators who get it: We send countless requests, and GW is a private institution, so officials can decline to comment when they so choose. A few have always stood out to me for their consistent transparency and recognition of the importance of independent student journalism. Thank you for always taking the time to talk with us and answer our questions: Brian Blake, Cissy Petty, James Tate, Jay Goff, Loretta Early and Rachel Brown.

Crystal: You arrived at GW the same month I joined staff, and here we are both leaving the same month. In between, you were The Hatchet’s biggest advocate and went above and beyond to help us build relationships with administrators. It made our stories more thorough, and it made GW more transparent. Thank you.

Dani: Thanks for assigning me that crosswalk story. I had no idea what I was doing, but you encouraged me from the onset and were a big part of what made me realize the opportunities that exist at The Hatchet. It’s what made me want to join staff.

Lizzie: My fellow apartment price investigator. You always brought so much compassion and care in each story to get it right, and the work you put out day after day shows it. I miss the days we would collectively groan over the latest twists in GW news, but I know you’re now off doing bigger and better things!

Ilena: I hope we can swap jobs again for a day down the road. You wrote some of the most thoughtful and insightful stories and I was always in awe. Our long days in the townhouse on Fridays were brightened by your positivity, but I will still never understand ballet.

Parth: You were always the smartest person in the room. Despite not studying journalism, you pointed out the holes in our reporting and challenged us to look a layer deeper. You got involved with nearly every section and it left its mark – current staff who have never even met you seem to know who you are, and I think that speaks for itself.

Meredith: I still can’t believe you got that Hatchet tattoo. But even more so that we still didn’t win the competition. You taught me the ropes of a beat I didn’t understand and was reluctant to take, but little did I know how rewarding that encouragement would turn out to be.

Sarah: Serving as editor in chief brings on a lot of pressure, and you always took each day with grace and compassion. When I thought I was going to have to step away from staff at one point, you found a way to make it work with my schedule. I wouldn’t be at The Hatchet writing this if you hadn’t.

Lia: We’ve come a long way since sitting in metro section meetings our freshman year. If nothing else, we learned that signatory was a more elusive title than editor in chief. You led us in the right direction in so many tough decisions this year, and this paper is in a better place because of it. It will be weird to not talk about The Hatchet every day and tackle the latest crisis with you, but it’s a well-deserved break after all you’ve had to deal with.

Jared: I’d say it was fun being MEs together, but I think that doesn’t do justice to the roles our jobs often morphed into: flood responders, tech support, copy, business and even Engage liaisons. You care about The Hatchet as an institution more than anyone else I know. No detail is too small – you always take the care and time to make every piece of content we publish the best it can possibly be. It’s a dedication I have always admired, and I know you will bring that commitment to whatever you do next.

Jarrod: The Hatchet’s success relies on a strong SNE, and you rose to the occasion. More recently when you ran for editor in chief, you made it clear that no challenge we face at The Hatchet is too elusive to tackle. I hope you continue the Harry Potter advocacy each Sunday night. I’m excited to see all you accomplish next year, and I look forward to reading each week.

Isha: You also didn’t originally want the administration beat, but I hope you’ve come to appreciate the constant twists and turns as I did. For the record, I do truly hope you create the weather and wildlife beats, and I hope the first story is about the alpacas. In all seriousness though, you have a lot of bold ideas for the paper, and I know it will serve The Hatchet well next year.

Zach: To some extent it doesn’t feel like you’re going anywhere because I still follow you on Twitter. You are one of the most dedicated people on this paper, and I worry for the day you fall down the townhouse stairs chasing a fire truck. Don’t lose that drive.

Nick: Covering GW leads to a lot of tough calls, and you always helped steer us in the right direction to make our coverage thorough. You’re such a talented reporter and editor, and I know you’ll do a great job as SNE next year.

Lauren: The GW student body is a unique bunch, and no one is more dedicated to following its marvels. You shine positivity into everything that you do, and I know The Hatchet is in good hands with you as MD. Enjoy your student government retirement!

Grace Hromin: I’m sure you’re breathing a sigh of relief now that you don’t have to respond to my constant badgering with crazy ideas that often don’t make sense. But you always found a way to make the impractical possible and found new ways to tell stories through photo. You’re incredibly talented, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Jaden: I will miss your constant questioning of stories, whether it be about a curly apostrophe or an entire section. It was always a comfort to know you were one of the last sets of eyes on everything we published, and I know you’ll continue to hone your unyielding copy talent in Volume 119.

Team Design: As my one-hit-wonder on InDesign showed, we couldn’t put out the paper each week without you. Grace Miller: Remember the suitcase transport technique the next time things move online. Say hi to David for me. Isabella: I can’t wait to see what creative ideas you come up with as you take the helm of the section in the fall. Just don’t use the basketball font again. Nicholas: You constantly amaze me with your creative ideas and new ways to bring data to life. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

Hannah: I wasn’t surprised when I picked up a copy of The Post with your byline on A-1 not too long after you left. You’re such a talented writer and always have a way to make the point that no one else sees. I know I’ll be seeing many more of your bylines for years to come.

Mom, Dad and Jeremy: You have always been my biggest support and sources of encouragement. Pursuing journalism makes me the odd one out in the family, but it seems that you, too, have become closer to political and news junkies over these past few years. Thank you for making all of this possible.

Ally, Carrie and Savita: You are finally free from The Hatchet. Thanks for putting up with my constant rants about this University and the sudden breaking news that at times made me change plans last minute. Looking forward to joking about it all one day on the yacht.

Derek, Noah and Sam: You deserve to be thanked just for how many times I’ve droned on about The Hatchet despite you not actually being at GW. But a lot has happened these past few years, and I’m even more grateful for your friendship and support as it all kept coming.

Onto the next adventure.


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