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Virginia Law Weekly Nabs ABA Award for Best Newspaper

Mary Wood

Virginia Law Weekly Staff
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The Virginia Law Weekly is used to giving others a “thumbs up,” but recently they received one themselves—from the American Bar Association. The ABA awarded the student-run publication Best Newspaper at their annual meeting in August, in a contest that included 15 other law schools. The Georgetown University Law Center and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law had dominated the category since 2001, so the award came as a pleasant surprise and a notable triumph for the paper’s staff.

The Law Weekly, which publishes 26 issues a year, is known for its irreverent, tongue-in-cheek columns, but also for its extensive coverage of law school events, its humorous weekly collection of faculty quotes overheard in class, and its sometimes-controversial “ANG” (Around North Grounds) feature, which offers a mix of student and newspaper staff opinions delivering thumbs-up or—down to everything from the parking space lottery to Hurricane Ernesto.

“We thought for a minute about not applying because it was the end of the school year and finals were starting,” said editor-in-chief John Kabealo, who served as managing editor for the paper last year. But the staff picked out their five best issues “and never gave it another thought.”

The Law Weekly staff were unaware they had won when classes began in late August—they didn’t attend the awards ceremony because of the expense of traveling to Chicago. A mysterious box sat in a pile of mail in the Law Weekly office for days unopened.

“Finally our news editor, Chris Tucker, grabbed the box and opened it up and there’s a plaque in it,” Kabealo said. Even then, the wording of the award was ambiguous enough that it took some Googling to find out that they had indeed taken the top prize.

Kabealo credited the win to The Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, the Law Weekly staff as a whole, and to former editor-in-chief Lee Kolber, who made it a priority to upgrade the organization’s decade-old computers and software.

With the new equipment, current third-year Law student Joey Katzen was able to redesign the newspaper’s layout.

“The new layout featured more modern fonts and graphics but still preserved classic Jeffersonian tradition with Jefferson’s image on the masthead and other features. I think the updated look really gave the paper some visual pop and drew the reader into our improved content,” Kolber said. “We were also lucky to have a dedicated and very creative staff last year. I think the combination of the new layout, great photographs and creative writing must have been the deciding factor.”

Katzen, John Sheehan, and Drew Snyder redesigned the newspaper’s website as well, providing easy access to students or alumni off Grounds. Kabealo also praised production editor Josephine Liu’s layout skills. “You never have to worry when she’s around,” he said. The staff has grown to about 35 in the past year, with just as many first-year students expressing interest in getting involved, he noted.

Other law school papers might feature a couple of articles in each issue, but “our newspaper reflects the higher level of commitment that we have and it also is a reflection of UVA Law generally,” Kabealo said. “Dean Jeffries likes to say it’s the voice of the institution. After having been here two years going on three, I think that’s a pretty apt remark.”