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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Hi, everyone, it’s Zach Lee here, taking off the editorial mask to speak to you all directly one last time here in The Independent Florida Alligator. That being said, the following views are my own, not those of the Alligator.

In the almost four months I’ve been serving as your opinions editor, I’ve had the privilege and burden of trying to bring you a fair and balanced opinions section during perhaps the most controversial election season in the history of our nation. No matter what side of the debate you’re on, this election brought out the worst in us. Here in Gainesville, I watched this election motivate people to vandalize a series of buildings, including my old fraternity house, which had a brick thrown through a window and “We Love (Swastika)” spray-painted on the exterior. While my brothers and I have had our differences politically, it disappointed me beyond belief that this is somehow a new and acceptable way we express our discontent. More recently, Arianna Huffington’s speaking engagement was canceled because of threats. Unsurprisingly, these threats were politically charged. It seems the institution of journalism is becoming more and more hated by the very people it so desperately tries to serve.

In two weeks, I will be closing this chapter of my life and graduating, temporarily moving to Atlanta to intern at a comedy network, because that’s what philosophy graduates do, apparently. As I prepare to move on, I look back at how I got here. Unlike most editors here, I’ve only been with the paper since Summer 2016. For three years before that, I would occasionally submit guest columns, which the former opinions editors would more than occasionally reject.

It’s fair to say, for the most part, I am an Alligator outsider. While everybody at the Alligator has been incredibly welcoming in my time here, the majority of my time as a UF student has not been spent with the paper. I’m a philosophy major, not a journalism student. For three of my three-and-a-half years here, I submitted nothing more than guest columns. Let the record reflect I do not consider myself a journalist.

So as the unofficial quasi-investigative journalist secretly infiltrating the mysterious Alligator, let me tell you my first and final report: These students lose sleep and skip meals to bring you the truth. Those accusations of the paper being anti-Greek and hyper-left get laughed at by our many Greek employees (hi!), conservative editorial board members and columnists (surprise, there are many of them). This paper is one of the things that makes being a Gator so great, and it sets a sterling example for how college newspapers ought to be.

I’m compelled to share with you all at UF that you are so unbelievably lucky to have this paper. I know full well there’s a newfound distrust of journalism, and as a philosophy student who values transparency and honesty, I’m right there with you. But I can assure you that an overwhelming majority of newspapers are sincerely dedicated to bringing you the information you really ought to know. Sometimes it is hard to understand, given the pay is next to nothing. They must be doing it because they’re dedicated to informing you Gators, hoping to create a better campus and a better community.

With that off my chest, I thank you, fellow Gators, for joining me in this personal writing experiment. It’s been an honor having you all as my readership. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Stay critical, stay vigilant, stay brilliant and stay proud of your paper.

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