M. Eleanor Schmalzl ‘20
For years I have dreamed of attending UVA Law. I knew from a young age that this place was special, and for a long time I hoped to walk these halls, make incredible lifelong friendships, and, most importantly, play softball. But the last thing I ever expected was not only to be involved with, but also to be Editor-in-Chief of, the Virginia Law Weekly.
Like most people who become involved with the Law Weekly, I began attending meetings as a 1L because of the free pizza and the hope to have something interesting to put on my resumé come OGI. Thanks to Jenna Goldman ’18, Editor-in-Chief during the 2017-18 school year, and Julie Dostal ’19, nicest person to me on Monday nights in the Law Weekly office when I was a 1L, I kept coming back to edit every week and enjoy some laughs with fun upperclassmen. And come spring semester, then Editor-in-Chief Jansen VanderMeulen ’19 approached me, much to my surprise, about being the paper’s Executive Editor. Despite knowing very little about the position, or about how bad pizza smells when you sit in a room with it for six hours on a weekly basis, I agreed to devote my Monday nights and take a more serious role with the newspaper.
It was in that first week as Executive Editor that I realized my passion for the Virginia Law Weekly. After publishing our very first edition under the new leadership, the papers were taken from the stands in protest of a controversial piece submitted by a non-staff student that had made its way into our pages. Additionally, a large display condemning the article was left outside of the Law Weekly office––a copy of the missing issue marked up with highlighter and red text written across the page, “SHAME” in all caps. Seeing this, I felt threatened. And I felt like someone was trying to scare the paper’s leaders away from publishing controversial articles submitted to them. Suffice it to say that the new executive board was shaken, unsure of what our tenure would look like from that point forward.
Those events left me feeling passionate about the importance of freedom of speech and the press. They also transformed my previous enjoyment of the Law Weekly into much more. No matter my feelings toward the controversial article of that week or others like it, I feel strongly that opinions should be heard. And when people disagree, I feel just as strongly that these people should have a place where they can challenge those opinions––as many students did by writing response letters in subsequent editions of the paper last spring. I don’t view the Law Weekly as the appropriate posting board of all things controversial, but I am thankful to have had this experience. It led me to love a facet of this law school I never dreamt I would care about––this newspaper. It led me to want to take on this role as Editor-in-Chief.
As Jansen mentioned in his farewell article last week, the Law Weekly has come a long way in the last five years. I feel so lucky to have had such strong leaders before me who have left the paper as healthy as it is. And I feel fortunate to have such a supportive Law School community that cares to pick up a copy every week and actually read our sometimes-funny and hopefully-informative content. Now, as I begin my tenure as Editor-in-Chief, I feel a real responsibility to continue to push the Law Weekly toward excellence. At this point in the paper’s rejuvenation, this year’s leaders have a high bar to clear if we really want to improve the Virginia Law Weekly. Luckily, we have an enthusiastic editorial board and strong group of staff editors who cram into the office on Monday nights, eager to produce content and push the Law Weekly to new heights.
This coming year, I hope to make the paper more interactive and better serve the needs of the students, present and former, at UVA Law. I know a lot of you pick up the paper for the ANGs, the professor quotes, and the Sudoku, and I know some of you have become loyal readers of our restaurant reviews and recaps of Law School events. But I hope to expand our readership by producing more exclusive, valuable content and making it readily available both in print and online. I also hope to provide better means of soliciting feedback from our readers so the paper can learn what you want more of and how we can better serve you.
With that, I charge those reading this to reach out to us. Without our readers, there is no Virginia Law Weekly. Tell us what you like. Tell us what you would like. Tell us where we can improve. Engage with us. During my time as Editor-in-Chief, my goal is to serve you and this Law School community. After years of dreaming about this place, I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute to it in this unique and, for me, unexpected way. To everyone who is reading this article: I appreciate your involvement with this paper, whether it’s scanning the ANGs every week or reading the pages cover-to-cover. Help make it a great year and leave this paper––and this community––better than we found it.