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Saturday, May 25, 2024

When I came to college, it had been years since I was part of a team or group that really had an identity.

I played on some good Little League baseball teams — the highlight of my not-so-memorable athletic career. Of all of my friends growing up, I was the only one not athletic enough to play a sport in high school.

Here at UF, I finally found that sense of friendship again when I joined a fraternity. I believed that was all I needed.

However, I found that I was part of a different, yet equally passionate group on Feb. 21, 2012.

A day earlier, in an infamous incident that any student who is at least a junior-to-be would recall, members of the Unite Party threw away more than 250 copies of the Alligator. They did so because the paper ran a front-page story about Will Muschamp endorsing the Students Party’s vice presidential candidate, who happened to be one of his players.

As a second-semester writer, I hadn’t developed a deep connection to the Alligator yet. I knew I liked my fellow sports writers, and the students in the news department treated me well.

But as one of just a few members of the Greek community on staff, the incident put me in an awkward situation. My employer was suddenly in the middle of a major controversy with the Greek-powered party.

Despite the Alligator endorsing the Unite Party in the spring of 2011, most fraternity and sorority members I have talked to during my time in Gainesville think the paper has a personal agenda against Greek life.

So on the 21st, the reaction from my Greek friends was that the Alligator was out to get them after the front page of the paper had a news story about the trashing, and both the sports and opinions sections ran columns criticizing the Unite Party.

They didn’t seem to grasp that we were simply reporting the news based on the facts.

I had friends who thought the Alligator’s journalistic standards were low enough to fabricate the entire thing, and I constantly found myself in arguments about this.

But I only grew prouder to be a part of a staff that continued to report on a story regardless of how unpopular it made the paper with a powerful segment of the student body — even if I had some uncomfortable conversations with my brothers.

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The staff could have viewed me and other Greek writers as outsiders not fully devoted to objectivity because of our involvement in other organizations. But it was never an issue.

These people take their work too seriously to make up a story about student government just to start a controversy, and that’s what I love about them.

When I describe to others what writing for alligatorSports entails, they can’t get over the fact that objectivity is such a high priority for us. But it’s that same commitment to fairness that every section of the paper displays when it reports on any story.

As I wait for my first post-grad job opportunity and worry whether or not a long-term career in journalism is in my future, I’ll always take comfort in knowing that I was a part of a team at the Alligator that took pride in its work, professionalism and commitment above all else.

So thanks to Adam Berry for recommending that the Fall 2011 sports staff hire me and to Tom Green for taking the recommendation seriously and giving me a shot.

To Watts and Boothe: Thanks for making me a better writer last spring by giving me the toughest constructive criticism I’ve ever had.

And thanks to Greg, Joe and even Pincus for making last football season the best experience I’ve had in college.

Without you guys and the rest of the Alligator staff, I’d probably still be a writer, but a worse one for sure.

And I definitely wouldn’t have had the chance to be a team player.

Contact Josh Jurnovoy at jjurnovoy@alligator.org.

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