Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Student-Run Paper Taught Lessons in Life

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Student-Run Paper Taught Lessons in Life

Article excerpt

I began working at the Independent Florida Alligator at

the beginning of my senior year, in the summer of 1987. I

would have gone down there sooner, but I had to work up the

nerve.

The student-run newspaper had a reputation for aggressiveness,

and despite the fact that I had some experience -- I had been

working as the sole reporter for the Gainesville Voice, the

local African-American newspaper -- I was intimidated.

My first job was as a part-time night editor, a glorified

proofreader who went in late at night and circled errors in the

paper as it was being pasted up. I made about $15 a week, but

that didn't matter as long as I had my foot in the door.

I began spending most of my free time at the Alligator,

watching and learning from the other students. And it wasn't

long before the staffers who had once intimidated me became my

mentors and friends.

I was impressed by their professionalism, their commitment and

the passion with which they did their jobs. It was a nurturing,

motivating creative environment and I was drawn into it. This

was what I wanted to do with my life.

By the fall, I had worked my way onto the staff as a copy

editor and soon after was promoted to layout editor. I designed

the news pages, supervised two part-time sports layout editors

and worked closely with the art director who designed Applause,

our weekly entertainment supplement.

My budget was $120 a week. I paid myself $60 a week and the

part-timers each got $30.

Michael Koretzky was the editor then. He liked to shake things

up, and it was no secret that he was struggling just to make

passing grades in his journalism classes. He never did graduate.

Every afternoon the editors would squeeze into Koretzky's

office, no bigger than your average walk-in closet, for the news

meeting. We sat on his desk, on file cabinets, and often on each

other critiquing the paper, discussing the stories and photos

for the next day's paper and planning special projects.

We covered the big stories right alongside reporters from other

daily newspapers. There was the $5 million fire that destroyed

75-year-old Johnson Hall and the underage student who drank

himself to death.

And we also did the routine stuff, the day-to-day stories that

evolved from university life. Student government squabbles,

fraternity brawls, racial issues, and, of course, football.

What set us apart from the so-called "real" newspapers was our

willingness to take a story and run with it, and our eagerness

to walk along the edge and sometimes plunge over it.

We did a tongue-in-cheek story on how to buy marijuana in

Gainesville. There was a story on students who eat road kill,

and if my memory is correct, we even included cooking tips. …

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