I promise I don’t believe everything happens for a reason.
Nearly three years ago, Ethan Bauer, a friend and former Alligator sports editor, picked me up from UF’s campus and drove me to The Alligator office.
I was a freshman at FSU at the time, and I was in Gainesville to visit some friends, consult an adviser in the journalism school that I was in the process of transferring to and, that afternoon, check out the newsroom I hoped to join.
What I saw in that empty, poorly lit room amazed me. The old papers, the quote bag, the memorabilia and hate mail and random items. This was it. Ethan opened the door for me — literally and figuratively — that day, but he wasn’t the first or the last person to do so.
After that, I transferred to UF and began my Alligator career and, well, here I am.
For years I’ve told people that I transferred for the stellar journalism program and that’s not entirely true. It’s time to come clean – I transferred to UF for the opportunity to work at The Independent Florida Alligator.
Five semesters later, I can say I did just that. But I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to cover the tennis team during my first semester on staff, be the editor-in-chief of one of the largest student-run newsrooms in the country or anything in between if it weren’t for the kindness, grace and support of dozens and dozens of people.
Reflecting on years of writing, editing and pulling my hair out, you would think it would be the stories that jumped out at me. The end product of the blood, sweat and tears and a bunch of other fitting cliches. But the people and experiences come to mind.
It’s Ethan giving me his blessing to join the staff and Morgan McMullen, my first editor, taking his word and bringing me on to his staff. I think of the utter disdain in Meryl Kornfield’s face when I, a sports writer, contributed a story to news and dubbed myself a hybrid reporter. (I’m happy to say that the term stuck and spread throughout the sports section.) I recall talking with Bailey LeFever about how one day, if it were somehow possible, I wanted to be editor of The Alligator.
I think about a crazy college football season in 2019, driving around the SEC with Tyler Nettuno, Sam Campisano and Dylan Rudolph. I remember Nettuno and Mari Faiello trusting me to edit the sports section and after a pandemic-stricken semester, Christina Morales nudging me to take her place as editor-in-chief in the Fall.
I’ve met and grown close to some truly incredible people in my time here. They’re what make The Alligator, and I’m beyond grateful for all of them. Food runs on print nights, trips around the SEC to Gators road games and Wednesday nights at The Social were just as much a part of my Alligator experience as editing flats and getting a call from the copy desk.
Nothing about this was easy. The past 15 weeks have been the hardest of my life. But I can say, confidently, I did what I set out to do and that was give The Alligator, its readers and my staff my all.
A lot of good, bad and otherwise has happened since I began chasing journalism five years ago. I’m not convinced that it all happened for a reason – I personally hate that trope. But with the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had, it’s hard to believe none of this happened for a reason.
Kyle Wood was the editor-in-chief of The Alligator.