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Ethan Benn: The last word

Ethan Valliath

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, I saw, I opined. What more do you need to know?

I’ve been waiting to write my 30 since the moment I joined The Hatchet’s staff. Now I’m at a loss for words — no pithy ledes, punchy jokes or profound quotes. All I can say is this: I love The Hatchet, I loathe The Hatchet and I don’t know where I would be without The Hatchet.

But that hardly does justice to my time here. In the immortal words of Miss Ida Blankenship, “It’s a business of sadists and masochists, and you know which one you are.”

I’m haunted by the coulda, shoulda, wouldas: the pitches that died in my inbox, the pieces that demanded more edits, the articles that didn’t deserve the light of day. I know it wasn’t always good enough, but I gave it my best. However short I stumbled, we still made a paper.

I’m not in a mood for self-congratulation or sentimentality. I was hired to do a job, one I wouldn’t have even applied for without Andrew (or Jarrod). And now my reign is over.

It’s about time.

If there’s one thing I can press on you with whatever platform I have left, it’s this: Opinions journalism matters. Read the opinions section, and you’ll find people doing their damndest to persuade, inform or entertain you — and frequently all three at once.

Pursuing some greater goal, we writers find facts, bare our souls and pour out our hearts. Though such efforts rarely change the world, they can stir others to think, and better yet, to act.

“We are all allotted an unknown but finite number of hours of consciousness,” Roger Ebert once wrote. “Maybe a critic can help you spend them more meaningfully.”

Writer, columnist, editor, critic — these are fleeting titles. But if a single word I’ve written has helped you better understand this beautiful, terrifying world of ours, consider my job done.

To my colleagues (and friends):

Ethan Valliath

Riley: Where do I begin? “Contributing” hardly covers all you’ve done for the opinions section. From pitch to publication, you’ve been at my side for two volumes and three semesters. No matter the fires we’ve had to put out or the bruised egos we’ve had to soothe, I’ve always been able to depend on you. Your insight and attention to detail makes every article you touch better. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sticking up for our writers, putting up with my antics and always keeping me on my toes. You deserve nothing less than the best.

Julia: It’s one thing to be a loyal opinions reader, but joining the section halfway through the year is something else entirely. You didn’t just rise to the challenge — you thrived. Thank you for helping to run the section and for introducing me to a different side of The Hatchet (and D.C.). I enjoyed every minute of our ops-culture collaboration, not to mention our audio messages.

Paige: Thank you for joining us on the wild ride that is opinions. Planning our weekly meetings isn’t easy — that’s why we created the editorials assistant in the first place. But it’s been wonderful to watch you guide our discussions, become part of staff and have plenty of laughs along the way. Whatever life has in store, I hope you’ll look back at this time fondly.

Editorial board members: Jaden, Clara and Grace Miller; Jenna, Anaya and Ethan — I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with you as part of the editorial boards for Volume 119 and 120, respectively. You’ve dealt with changes in topics, emergency meetings and all my idiosyncrasies. But the hours we’ve spent talking, writing and revising have made a difference.

Maura: Hippo cartoons, recaps of last week’s Hatchet Dungeons & Dragons session, rescue from White Plains, New York: Whatever I need and whenever I need it, you’ve risen to the occasion time and time again. There are few people I’d want putting together the opinions page or taking me to Stew Leonard’s more than you. Thank you for everything.

Núria: You may have moved from the sports desk to the fourth floor desk, but I will never forget your stewardship of your section or your contributions to the editorial board. Not everyone can carry their section or enliven the back of the basement, but those of us who do have a special connection. I’m so glad to have met you, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Nicholas: You’ve worn a few hats at The Hatchet. And while your artistic prowess is one thing, I really do admire your care for this newspaper. Let alone the award-winning Kermit impressions and community events, you understand what this institution is — and what it could be. Thank you for making me think deeply and laugh even harder.

Nick: Few people deserve to be called a “journalist,” but you truly do. You have an unparalleled passion for the craft of journalism, whether that means sending me stories I’ve missed, helping me write headlines or giving me the edits I need to say what I actually mean. I hope this industry isn’t a sinking ship; if it is, I have no doubt you’ll be the person to right it.

Zach: From belting out Gilbert and Sullivan to bemoaning all things opinions, you’ve seen me at my best, my worst and everywhere in between. No matter how I feel when I walk into your office, I rarely leave — usually an hour or two later — without a smile on my face. Volume 120 brought so many challenges, and I couldn’t have asked for a better editor in chief to meet them.

Andrew and Shreeya: Thank you both for helping me find my voice. Opinion writing isn’t easy, but your edits and encouragement kept me going — and led me to join staff.

Jarrod: Volume 119 has already faded into memory, but your scrupulous editing style and willingness to let me shake up the section time and time again will always stand out. You welcomed me into The Hatchet, and you made me a better editor.

Grace Chinowsky: I only wish we’d spoken sooner and more often. Thanks to you, the opinions section is already hitting harder than ever. You’ve got a fantastic team, and I’m excited for what Volume 121 will bring.

Andi and Madie: All I wanted was to leave the opinions section in safe hands, and both of you have shocked me with how fast you’ve caught onto the ins and outs of running opinions. You’re talented writers and fantastic people, and I can’t wait to see how you’ll make the section your own. I’ll always be there to answer your questions, but you’ve got this.

And to my family: You inspire my work, you’re featured in it and you read it. Whether you’re a Litwin, Levine, Benn, Dabrow or somewhere in between, there’s not much more I can ask from all of you. Thank you for your support — I hope I’ve done you proud.


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About the Contributor
Ethan Benn, Opinions Editor
Ethan Benn, a senior majoring in journalism and communication, is the opinions editor.
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