I’m not going to bury the lead. Any time a law student pens a letter to a student organization that starts with “I cannot in good conscience continue to work for The Law Weekly,” things are going to get funny. You know, unless these “Law Weekly” people are asking you to screw over your sources, or screw for sources, “good conscience” can’t really come into the discussion of a student newspaper.
This law student’s conscience has been offended by the behavior of other Law Weekly students, who apparently aren’t as committed to the job as they could be. So now we get to play the game where one law student criticizes other law students for not taking an extra-curricular seriously enough. This should be fun…
The student newspaper is the Georgetown Law Weekly, and it’s a fine student publication from what I recall. But “fine” is not nearly good enough for our little Bernstein:
I cannot in good conscience continue to work for The Law Weekly. I resign as [redacted], effective immediately.
I want to make it clear that my reason for leaving this organization has nothing to do with workload or time commitment. I would happily work five times as much on the paper if I believed the rest of the staff was committed to making it excellent. But absent that commitment, I do not think The Law Weekly can become a newspaper I can believe in. I do not believe I could work hard enough alone to make it a paper to which I could attach my name and in which I could invest my reputation as a journalist, so I am forced to withdraw from its staff.
Dude, why the drama? If you want to be a journalist, cut to the chase and leave the editorializing to a columnist. And if you want to be a columnist, here’s a free tip: you have not established why I (or the other editors at Law Weekly) should care about what you “believe in.” Absent any personal connection with your audience, your best bet is to tie your beliefs into something larger and more generalized. Here, let me show you:
I cannot in good conscience continue to work for Above The Law Weekly. I resign effective immediately.
I want to make it clear that my reason for leaving this organization has nothing to do with workload or time commitment. It has everything to do with your inveterate RACEISM and lack of tacos. I do not believe I could work hard enough. I am forced to sue this staff.
See, I’m a professional columnist.
Bernstein’s next stanza violates our cardinal rule of media:
I believe strongly in student journalism and in holding student publications to high professional standards. I believe that all journalists have a duty to produce an excellent product — even if no one reads it — and I do not believe it is ever acceptable to produce a low-quality product merely because it meets readers’ expectations. I cannot subscribe to the philosophy that I have seen demonstrated among this paper’s staff that producing a poor product is alright because this is “just” the law school newspaper.
I understand that not everyone who enjoys putting out a newspaper feels compelled to do so under the kinds of standards I expect, and I do not judge those who do not share my beliefs. I simply am not prepared to give up the values I hold as a journalist to participate in an organization in which I find no sympathy of motive or similarity of ideology.
Don’t slam your colleagues’ work ethic and standards on the way out the door. It’s just not classy. It also invites your colleagues to examine everything you’ve ever written for “quality product,” and that is a test that every journalist is destined to lose from time to time. Everybody has a few stinkers, and if you haven’t, you simply haven’t been working at it long enough or trying very hard.
As much as I’d like to save some of these nuggets for a “Law and Journalism” class, here’s another free tidbit: “even if no one reads it” is your problem right there. Nobody cares about your journalistic philosophy or your ideas about your own glorious work ethic. Clicks or GTFO are the only shared beliefs that fly in this business. [Elie chomps on a cigar.] It’s a tough world kid, check your values at the door.
Finally, here’s a terribly constructed sentence in the middle of a poorly thought-out paragraph:
I have little doubt that my reasoning will draw criticism of up-tight-ness or unreasonability, and that is as it should be. The Law Weekly should define for itself the style with which it approaches managing and producing its product, and it should exclude from its staff those who would expect it to be otherwise than its leadership imagines it to be. I am not the kind of journalist that belongs at The Law Weekly.
Jesus. Let me edit that for you:
I have little doubt that [M]y reasoning will draw criticism of up-tight-ness or unreasonability , and that is as it should be. The Law Weekly should define for itself the style with which it approaches managing and producing its product, and it should exclude from its staff those who would expect it to be otherwise than its leadership imagines it to be who don’t know what they’re doing. I am not have not learned to be the kind of journalist that belongs at The Law Weekly.
At least that way makes sense. Last tip: every publication has something to teach you about your own writing and how to improve it. Even “bad” ones. If you feel like you’ve learned all you can from the Law Weekly experience, it’s fine to leave. Just say “thanks for the memories” and move on. But this bitingly critical letter suggests that there are still a few things that the people at Law Weekly could have taught you — lessons you’ve rejected out of your own sense of… “up-tight-ness,” as it were.
You know why student newspapers are great? Because this is how we learn. We get better through struggles and failures and tribulations such as these. It’s sad that Bernstein didn’t stick with it. ATL is always looking for new interns.
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