Good Bye & Good Luck
By Katherine Mereand-Sinha
Last week our peer and classmate Drew Cohen was published in USA Today with an editorial about campaign spending and Citizens United. It is a good piece; I hope you read it.
As the outgoing Editor-In-Chief of this student-run GW Law publication, I received a faculty member’s email suggesting that Nota Bene should strive to follow Mr. Cohen’s excellent example by writing “real” news pieces, “not just quoting an occasional dean or student comment.” This well-intentioned, unsolicited advice is not new to me, nor do I think it appropriately appreciates some of the well-researched news and opinions stories we included this year. It is also a sentiment that is in direct contradiction to many other opinions I have heard throughout my three years writing for Nota Bene. Many faculty, students, and staff have told me that they would love to open Nota Bene and read more about the amazing things that happen at the law school.
Despite the perhaps inevitable tension between those two oft-repeated and valid positions, they share a commonality. There is a persistent desire to see more and better reporting from the law school newspaper. While it is probably embedded in my job description to talk about the great coverage that we presented this year, more and better are likely universal goods and so it is hard to disagree.
But outside calls for excelsior from interested readers do not offer avenues towards achievement of such goals. Still, avenues for continued improvement do exist, perennially, and so I would like to put a few ideas on record for future consideration.
Much earlier this year, I asked anyone who would listen, “What is a newspaper?” Dean Berman’s particularly elegant response coalesced around the idea that a newspaper is about community. If you take that to heart, as I did, then it is the task of this newspaper to wrap our coverage around an idea or a concept of what is the GW Law community.
In a large and diverse school such as ours–counting all students, faculty, adjunct faculty and staff we total over twenty-five hundred intelligent individuals from all walks–an easily quotable definition of our community may prove to be elusive. Can one newspaper be all things to all people? It can try, but it will only approach success if it can draw in the diversity of voices and interests to write and comment about whatever they find most interesting.
The challenge is that everyone would like to see someone else recognize and write about the things that they are doing, but they perceive themselves (perhaps accurately) as being too busy to pay it forward. Nota Bene writers are stalwart members of the community and often put forward such stories with no quid pro quo expectations, but the more students who will write one story about their activities or their friend’s activities for publication, the more we can educate each other and the world about the amazing things that happen at the law school.
With an online presence Nota Bene can even serve as platform for photos of student events, ads for upcoming events, and the beginning of a legal blogging career for savvy students. The legal landscape is not only changing–in many ways it has changed. Perhaps with faculty guidance or support, I suggest it is time for GW Law students to take up serious blogging about the law. Short-format, sharp legal summaries and commentaries are where law firms market their legal know-how and where our own faculty demonstrate their intellectual prowess. With an outlet like Nota Bene and, should they be so good as to give it, guidance from the faculty, GW Law students could get a jump on that skill.
But those concerns are now for another Editor-In-Chief in the year to come. At present my last duty is to sum up.
I could reflect at length on what has happened in Volume 26 of Nota Bene, but I believe this year’s coverage speaks for itself. The one thing I would say is an honest thank you to the editorial board and staff writers all with their own style, opinions, and ideas. The GW Law Community should know that this year the Nota Bene editorial board cut funding for staff. For the past several years all writers received base compensation for individual articles, and editors received funds for their editorial work. Faced with a budget cut in half so that money could be allocated to other student groups, this year’s newspaper chose to cut its own remuneration and an individual staff member donated all the work and funds to develop our new web site. Nota Bene writers have indeed proven themselves stalwart.
As of this issue, the reins of Nota Bene have been handed off to a fantastic new editorial board, and I hand my role to this year’s intrepid News Editor, Alex Giannattasio. The 2012-2013 board is larger than this year’s board and full of ideas for improvements. I wish them well on what I am sure will be a year that provides yet more and of course better coverage, reporting, and success. Excelsior.