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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Two years ago, I wandered into The Alligator’s newsroom for the first time, totally clueless. It was the first meeting of Fall 2019, and I sat in the back as people pitched story ideas. 

I prayed that nobody would call on me, so I tried to look busy by admiring all the strange stuff decorating the walls — old newspapers, memes, inside jokes from past writers and editors that I wished I understood. I knew almost nothing about The Alligator, so it felt like I’d walked in on a cult. 

I transferred to UF from FSU that semester mostly because I thought journalism sounded pretty cool, which was maybe not the best reasoning for such a life changing decision. 

It must have been evident that I didn’t know what I was doing, because a few other newbies and I were rounded up to take a copy editing test. I didn’t even know what copy editing was, but sure, that sounded good.

Unsurprisingly, I failed the test. I remember that semester’s Big Three breaking this news in the gentlest way possible, and they encouraged me to try again next year. I walked home feeling discouraged, and for the next few months, I questioned whether transferring to UF was the right decision. 

After receiving some much-needed encouragement by people on staff, I decided to give it another shot the following Fall. This time around, I was a little more confident in myself, and I had even figured out what AP style was. I joined as the paper’s first health reporter that semester, and I’m thankful I was given that chance. 

My only regret is that I didn’t make a greater effort to join sooner. When I think of my college years, I’m going to think of The Alligator — the chaos of reporting from Midtown or a Mike Pence rally during a pandemic, editing flats until 2 a.m. on the comfy and probably dirty couch, or being lectured on astrology over Zoom.

Joining this paper was the best decision I’ve made, because through it, I found my passion. I also found the smartest, kindest, funniest and most caring group of friends and coworkers ever, and I’m even more grateful for that. 

I might not have remembered everyone from my reporting class, but I will undoubtedly remember everyone I met at The Alligator.  

Thomas Weber is a UF journalism senior. He was the Summer 2021 senior news director.

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