On the front cover of my first issue as The Flat Hat’s 110th Editor-in-Chief in February 2020, our staff published a brief article about Sam Jones’s retirement. Jones, we wrote, was expected to step down from his role in June. None of us anticipated that that article — as innocuous as it seemed — would tie in with a piece we published in the previous week’s issue about an unnerving virus causing a new disease named COVID-19.
Simply put, we had no idea that within two weeks, the College of William and Mary and the entire world would be unrecognizable. Just as it has defined every waking minute of the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has defined my tenure as editor-in-chief. But reflecting on the past year, I feel extremely grateful to have managed one of the College’s strongest and most storied institutions.
As it has been for every outgoing editor-in-chief since 1911, stepping down from this role is bittersweet. Leaving The Flat Hat means leaving my home of four years. I’ve made lifelong friends, told incredible stories, and come face-to-face with every corner of our community from our dingy office in Campus Center. But it wasn’t always easy.
Like many other students at the College, I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression and disordered eating since I was in high school. I reached a low point during sophomore year when I was then training to become The Flat Hat’s managing editor. Things weren’t good; I wasn’t eating. I cancelled coffee dates and outings with friends because I felt too self-conscious. I criticized myself relentlessly. Everything felt so laborious and difficult, so much so that I came close to giving up on all my extracurricular activities — even though at times they were the only things bringing me joy on campus — because even they were starting to drain me.
But I kept up with The Flat Hat.
Every Monday night, I’d cry in my room until 4:45 p.m., at which point I would start getting ready to trudge to the office for the beginning of our weekly production night. Swiping into Campus Center at 5 p.m., I would swallow hard, nervous that someone would call me out for my puffy eyes, or that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the first round of page edits without having to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom.
But every week without fail, The Flat Hat made things better. Being around other people who cared about me, and who put so much effort and passion into their work, temporarily made things seem okay. Even when the work was taxing, tiresome and frustrating — which it often was — by the time we finished around 2 or 3 a.m., I always felt better than when I walked into the office. For better or worse, I put my all into The Flat Hat even on my worst days at the College, and at its core, that is what this institution is. We are a group of imperfect students trying to provide this school with honest, accurate and thought-provoking journalism — as well as a few explicit articles about gay sex — on top of classes, jobs, family commitments, mental health crises and everything else in-between.
Sometimes, we fail to meet the high standards this community justifiably sets for us. Like many other newsrooms at predominantly white institutions, The Flat Hat has a long way to go in diversifying our staff. We must improve how we cover and highlight multicultural groups and topics on campus. Several times over the course of the past year, we have published opinion pieces that have caused pain and fostered mistrust among valued members of our student body. I’m very proud of my staff for responding to these mistakes by establishing several new initiatives at the paper designed to address these structural problems, including releasing an annual staff internal diversity report, creating a new ombudsman’s role and unveiling a formal opinions printing philosophy. These are just the first steps that The Flat Hat is taking toward creating a more equitable and accessible newsroom.
The credit for these initiatives goes to the dozens of students who’ve reached out to me about their concerns regarding The Flat Hat during my term as editor. It’s one thing to rant on Twitter — which I know many of The Flat Hat’s haters love to do — but it shows genuine commitment and generosity to reach out and talk to us about what we did wrong. I hold a special place in my heart for the many members of the College community who came to us when we fell short and challenged us to improve our coverage. You are the reason we continue writing, filming, designing, photographing and publishing.
Looking beyond the occasional frustration and empty threats — a special shout-out to the person who threatened to burn down our office last year, which would almost be a favor given how dirty it is — I treasure this paper. The lessons I learned here far outpace those gained from any other class, club or part-time job. With the right leadership, I know The Flat Hat will provide the same outlet for generations of student journalists to come.
I trust that no one will do a better job at carrying The Flat Hat forward than its 111th Editor-in-Chief, Claire Hogan ‘22. Claire is warm-hearted, fearless, and extremely talented but still incredibly humble. She is among the brightest people to ever grace Campus Center 25, and I am honored to call Claire a friend. With the grace and maturity that I’ve seen from her during the past two years, I know she will shape this paper for the better.
Rounding out Claire’s executive staff are Managing Editor Lulu Dawes ‘23, Executive Editor Zoe Beardsley ‘22, Digital Media Editor Rebecca Klinger ‘22 and Operations Coordinator Emma Ford ‘22.
In addition to her Instagram savvy, Lulu will bring boundless energy and enthusiasm to her new role. I’ll forever cherish Lulu’s ridiculous witticisms in the office, including the infamous “God made us co-editors because he couldn’t handle us as sisters.” Zoe brings extraordinary experience to her new role, having previously served in two section editor roles. Becca will bring endless Spotify playlists and vibrant socks to the office as she helms our online content, and Emma will bring a genuine desire to improve The Flat Hat to her new role managing the paper’s internal logistics. It has been a pleasure to know, work with and befriend each of these wonderful people.
The news section will be run by the impressive tripartite team of Charles Coleman ‘22, Alexandra Byrne ‘23 and Molly Parks ‘24. They have already demonstrated tremendous grace in managing the paper’s largest section, and I cannot wait to see the nuanced breaking news, profiles and investigative pieces in their future. Charles, Alexandra and Molly will also be joined by the extraordinarily capable Georgia Thoms ‘23 as their new chief staff writer, who has already demonstrated her willingness to step up to the plate and write exceptional work.
Alyssa Slovin ‘22 and Lucas Harsche ‘23 will reprise their roles as opinions editors. As a former opinions editor, I know how difficult their jobs can be, but I know they will continue thriving in their positions this year. I’m incredibly impressed by their drive to seek out new and engaging perspectives on campus.
Variety has fabulous new leadership in Ashanti Jones ‘23 and Grace Olsen ‘22. Their beautiful page designs, coupled with their ability to highlight unique stories and experiences at the College, will serve them well in their new positions. They will also benefit from the excellent work of new Chief Staff Writer Adithi Ramakrishnan ‘22, whose high-quality work and generous, easygoing nature will contribute significantly to the section.
Sports will be led by the impressive pair of Nathan Seidel ‘22 and Lexie Hiestand ‘23. In a year where sports have been severely curtailed because of COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been amazed each week with their resilience in crafting engaging content despite all the obstacles in their way. I know that the second Tribe Athletics resumes their normal operations, Lexie and Nathan will leap into action and give us the sporty coverage we’ve all been waiting for.
Our online section will do great things under Online Editors Ashley Huang ‘24 and Noah Broude ‘23, who are poised to move The Flat Hat further into its digital age. The paper’s strides toward improving its online presence will be left in their extremely capable hands alongside Social Media Editors Erica Smedley ‘24 and Ezzie Seigel ‘23, who have already done a fantastic job at beefing up our Facebook and Instagram pages with creative, compelling content. They are also joined by Podcast Editor Judith Hahn ‘22, who will aid in The Flat Hat’s fledgling quest to become the next Up First from NPR.
Nina Raneses ‘22 is taking on the intense role of copy chief. After just a few weeks, she is already slaying Oxford commas and harmonizing the paper’s syntactical style with ease. I have full faith that she will do an amazing job.
Jamie Holt ‘22 and Nick Meyer ‘22 will lead the photos section this year. As Jamie has already been doing for several years, they will do an excellent job encapsulating the College through the camera lens, and I am eager to see the impressive work they produce in the months to come.
Data, The Flat Hat’s newest section, will live on under Data Editor Nick Reeder ‘24. Even as a freshman, Nick is showing strong leadership and an infectious passion for data journalism. I am sure he will make sure the section continues to grow and develop over the next year.
Finally, Matt Lowrie ‘22 will serve as The Flat Hat’s inaugural standards and practices editor. In his new role, Matt will ensure our paper meets the rigorous ethical standards demanded of us as a campus institution. This vital new role will help us ensure that we are positively contributing to the community we serve. On a sappier note, beyond his stellar work at the paper, I have also had the pleasure of calling Matt my boyfriend for the past year. He had to put up with all my whining as editor-in-chief, which is deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize in and of itself, but from firsthand experience, I know no one on this campus cares as deeply and wholeheartedly about doing what is right more than him. Matt, I love you. I’m so proud of you.
In addition to these amazing people, I leave The Flat Hat alongside some of my dearest friends, who made my experience at this paper as meaningful as it was.
Zoe Connell ‘21, one of our outgoing copy chiefs, was the first friend I ever made in Williamsburg. About halfway through our three years of living together, I muscled her into joining The Flat Hat on a whim during our sophomore year, and she quickly rose through the ranks to lead the copy section for several semesters. Zoe is fiercely loyal, independent and destined for great things. I’m so happy to leave the College with her as a lifelong friend.
Anna Boustany ‘21 was the first person I ever hired at The Flat Hat, back when I was a plucky opinions editor. She had a distinguished and varied career at the paper, writing articles for every section before becoming our chief operations coordinator this past year. I’m definitely biased because she’s one of my best friends, but I feel confident saying that no one else at this college is more capable of introducing joy into people’s lives than Anna. I know she has brought it to me more times than I can count.
I met Leslie Davis ‘21 when we were both interns together in fall 2017. Leslie’s warmth and relentless work ethic as our social media editor, news editor and data editor over the past three years have been inspiring, but most importantly, our weekly pasta nights — which we’ve been enjoying for more than a year now — have kept me sane and extremely well-fed. To know just how special Leslie is, I recommend everyone tune into WCWM on Saturdays from 4-5 p.m. to see for yourself.
Carmen Honker ‘21 leaves The Flat Hat after producing the best front-page designs that The Flat Hat has ever seen. Her unparalleled graphic design talent, combined with her strong reporting acumen, has made her a pleasure and a joy to work with over the past four years. I also credit her and outgoing copy chief Lillian Parr ‘21 for letting me come over to their house to spend time with their neighborhood cat, which has arguably been the best thing to ever happen to me in Williamsburg.
Last but not least, I also hold a special place in my heart for former editor-in-chief Nia Kitchin ‘20, whose steadfast support from the first moment I stepped into The Flat Hat’s office so long ago through my tenure as editor has demonstrated her love and passion for this paper.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to work alongside these extraordinary people during these extraordinary times. Stabilitas et fides.
Ethan Brown ‘21 is an economics and government double major from Manassas, VA. He served as The Flat Hat’s 110th editor-in-chief, and is involved with the American Bosnian Collaboration Project and the International Relations Club. Email Ethan at firstname.lastname@example.org