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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Action is eloquence

River Wells writes his goodbye to The Alligator

River Wells says goodbye to alligatorSports.
River Wells says goodbye to alligatorSports.

William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Act three, scene two, line 94.

In the play, Coriolanus’ mother Volumnia is trying to convince her son to run for consul. She tells him that action is eloquence: Put less pretentiously, that actions speak louder than words.

Once I wake up tomorrow, I’ll have concluded 10 semesters at the Independent Florida Alligator. In that time, I’ve covered five sports beats, been here for two summers and served as both Engagement Managing Editor and Sports Editor. I don’t know how eloquent it has been, but that’s certainly a lot of action.

I was barely on campus for two weeks when I heard that the Alligator was hiring fall 2017. I met with then-editor-in-chief Katelyn Newberg, who directed me to the sports section. I took a writing test, which included a preview about UF’s swim team.

I wrote a story filled with meaningless stats and press release quotes, and as I wrote it, I grew to detest it. I decided  I had to get quotes from former head coach Gregg Troy, so I emailed him from my UF student account to see if he would give me some quotes for my writing test.

He did. And when Sports Editor Matt Brannon gave me a call late one night, the rest became history.

For the first time, I felt absolutely surrounded by people who shared my love of sports. A print night didn’t go by without some sort of argument over why Philip Rivers was or wasn’t a hall of fame quarterback or who the true greatest shooter in NBA history was. 

I’d watch sports shows on ESPN for hours when I was little, and suddenly, I felt like I was living in one.

Being a member of the sports staff — “sprots”, as it is so affectionately called — allowed me to meet the best friends I’d ever get to make in college. I was writing features, going out on food runs during copy shift and making memes for the paper.

And then one night, while I was sitting alone eating dinner at Piesanos, I got a call from Christina Morales. She was going to be the editor-in-chief of the paper next spring, and she wanted me to be her Engagement Managing Editor. 

I had a lot of long conversations with my friends and colleagues in sports and news about that position, but in the end, I went out on a limb and I took it.

And you know what? It was really, really hard. I was entirely overwhelmed for the first few weeks of the job, and when I finally felt like I was starting to hit my stride, the world was plunged into a pandemic, and the job got even harder.

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I don’t think I was a very good Engagement Managing Editor at all, but I got to uncover yet another side of the newspaper I’ve grown to adore so much, and I came out of that experience with such an immense respect for young student journalists in newsrooms across the nation. I’m glad I got to do it, even if I probably (definitely) wasn’t the first choice for the job. 

After that, I spent a semester as Sports Editor, where I got to travel to places like Texas, Tennessee and Georgia to cover the best football season UF has had in years.

That’s action.

See, journalists write a lot of words. We write about the deeds and misdeeds of other people around us, but don’t be fooled. We’re doing our own deeds every print night when we put those words out there to the world, and the public service that journalists provide is absolutely integral.

Me? I’m far from the most accomplished writer at UF’s J-School. There are no awards or fanfare for me: I was never showered with honors, and I ended my tenure here at the world’s best student newspaper with as many internships as Troy Aikman has All-Pros.

I only have words to be proud of. And I’ve written a whole lot of words in my 10 semesters here at the Alligator. But after those semesters on staff at the best damn student newspaper in the country in an infinite number of positions, I hope people can say years from now that more than just my words told a story during my time as a student journalist.

For in such business, action is eloquence.

River Wells was Sports Editor, Engagement Managing Editor and a Staff Writer for the Independent Florida Alligator. 

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