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Sunday, February 25, 2024
<p>A larger-than-life-size puppet bearing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s likeness is marched through the streets of Ybor City in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.</p>

A larger-than-life-size puppet bearing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s likeness is marched through the streets of Ybor City in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

TAMPA — On a day that broadcasters had rallied a small army of reporters in preparation for one of political broadcasting’s biggest weeks of the year, an executive forgot his toothbrush.

A Gator had his back.

UF students joined thousands of media members in Tampa this week to report on protests and Mitt Romney’s official nomination as the Republican presidential candidate. The students sacrificed their classes to be errand-runners for the press world’s elite.

A popular internship for Gators in the Republican National Convention media circuit is hosted by ABC News.

For telecommunication senior Luis Giraldo, the day starts at 5 a.m. His 12-hour days this week have been filled mostly with figuring out logistics, which sometimes involves getting reporters’ early-morning coffee.

The 21-year-old worked his way up to earn an NPR-affiliated internship during the summer, so being an errand boy is humbling, he said.

“If you were to put it in a hierarchy, runners are probably the peasants,” Giraldo said.

But then, ABC’s Diane Sawyer will walk into the room. Or John Oliver of “The Daily Show” will show up. Or a job recruiter will remember a student’s name.

Experience in the field has always been touted as the holy grail of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. Internships are pushed from day one as the best way to secure a job postgraduation.

But sometimes, that experience comes at a cost. In Giraldo’s case, he’ll miss more than a week of classes, one of which — Spanish — he had to drop, because the punishment for his absences would have jeopardized his success in the class. That decision ultimately made it impossible to graduate on time with a Spanish double major, so he’ll graduate with a Spanish minor instead.

Wayne Wanta, journalism department chair, said the journalism college encourages students to take advantage of rare opportunities like covering the RNC.

However, he said, it’s up to the students to communicate with their professors and be responsible about the work they miss.

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“These opportunities come around once in a great while,” he said. “And it’s beneficial for our students to take advantage of them whenever they can.”

Journalism sophomore Erica Hernandez, 19, starts her day at 3:30 a.m. nowadays and stays downtown until dusk collecting radio sound, guiding guests and making coffee runs for ABC News workers.

Lunch was tomato-and-ricotta pizza, eaten standing and chewed between pauses in conversation.

“It’s not as glamorous,” she said. “[But] in journalism, you really have to be doing this.”

When faced with a field that Georgetown University estimates has about a 7 percent unemployment rate, a $32,000 median salary for recent graduates and endless stories of newspaper layoffs, some students feel the need to take on internships like this to stand out in the application crowd.

“I’m trying to do as much as I can to get ahead of the game,” Hernandez said.

Contact Meredith Rutland at mrutland@alligator.org.

A larger-than-life-size puppet bearing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s likeness is marched through the streets of Ybor City in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

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