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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ode to exhausting accountability

Steven Walker, Fall 2021 editor-in-chief, writes his farewell to The Alligator

I’m a Cancer. I’m dramatic and emotional, so just bear with me here.

It’s cliche to say change is hard. We know. Get over it. But it’s true, which I guess is why everyone says it.

As I sit behind the keys of my laptop trying to capture the emotions of my time here, I’m confronted with the reality of it all. It’s over. A chapter of my life is now written.

There’s a range of emotions I’m feeling right now, but it all boils down to how much I care about this paper and the people who make it happen.

Ever since April, this paper has completely dominated my life. Late nights, too much caffeine and not enough time with the people around me. I’ll never get these moments back, but the moments have been plentiful.

I never thought I was good enough for this paper. I started here over a year ago as the 2020 election reporter. As a junior joining staff for the first time, I was considered a late bloomer to many here. This Fall as editor-in-chief was my third semester on staff. Some at The Alligator have twice as many semesters as I got.

I knew when coming into this newsroom that I was making up for lost time. As soon as I started, I knew I had been missing out. Journalism is stereotyped as a toxic, hyper-competitive field, and it can be at times. I’ve never felt anything like that here at The Alligator. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but my short time at this paper has been filled with some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

I’ve learned so much throughout my time here. Valuable lessons about working in a newsroom, working with friends and finding a work-life balance even when it’s impossible.

Being editor-in-chief this Fall proved to be one of the biggest challenges of my career so far. The last 16 weeks have tested my judgment, my willpower, my patience and my endurance. My past experience in political journalism also didn’t hurt. I would need it all as our community became rather newsworthy this semester.

UF restricted its professors’ First Amendment rights, the university’s accreditor and the U.S. Congress launched investigations into UF, and detailed accounts of abuse under former women’s head basketball coach Cam Newbauer surfaced. The common denominator was The Alligator in the thick of it.

If one word defines this semester, it’s “accountability.”

My goal has always been to uphold the underlying purpose of the First Amendment. A free press should exist to serve as a check on the powers that be and provide a public service to the community to keep them informed on events that otherwise would happen in the dark.

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Such diligence costs energy, mental health and time. Reflecting on this Fall, I am certainly exhausted. Those who seek to work in the darkness bank on our exhaustion. Rest assured The Alligator will continue to hold our university and its community to a high standard beyond this Fall.

It’s funny how when I found out I was going to be editor-in-chief I didn’t feel ready. Now that my time is up, I’m not ready for it to be over.

I’m incredibly thankful to anyone who interacted with The Alligator in any way while I was here. Readers, reporters, editors and friends — you are what made this paper special.

Steven Walker was the editor-in-chief of The Alligator

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Steven Walker

Steven Walker is the Fall 2021 Editor in Chief of The Alligator. He has previously worked at the Orlando Sentinel; and has bylines in the Miami Herald, Associated Press and Florida Times Union. In his free time, he likes to take long walks with his dog Luna and watch his favorite sports teams, the Orlando Magic and the Green Bay Packers.

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