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Friday, April 19, 2024

The Alligator newsroom is lined with its history. 

The best issues, framed, hang over editors’ desks. The sagging couch where I nestled for the past 16 print nights seems pulled out of an estate sale, or an abandoned frat house. Closets contain stacks of our recent issues and proud collections of novels written by Alligator alum.

A back room holds shelves of bound yellowed pages from September 1962 until January 2011. The folding spines mark the year we went from “Florida Alligator” to “The Independent Florida Alligator.” Black and white photos show the faces of our legends, the editors that led us to independence, the laughing faces over loose pages of copy, the focused eyes over clunky typewriter keys. 

That newsroom smells like history, a library of student journalism. Some old white boards still hold messages from past Editor-In-Chiefs, scrawled with the dates of Spring 2020. 

The print nights of my predecessors stay frozen in the time capsule that our newsroom has become.

The day after I was picked as Spring 2022 EIC, I stepped into the newsroom with Asta and Anna at my side. I felt like a stranger. A tourist craning to see the homes of the people who lived where I’d fallen in love with. 

I looked at my old, sparse bylines drowning in a page of words. 

I thought I would never become part of the beast that is The Alligator. I’d always be a small tick on the back of the reptile charging through Gainesville.

I didn’t know that from the moment I joined staff, The Alligator already had me. 

When you work at The Alligator, you are part of our history. No matter how few the bylines, how small the photo, how short the stay. Your work gets tucked into the wall of volumes. 

One day a curious young reporter, or a stressed editor will open your pages and find your small name, read your article and see something of themselves in you.

I’ve watched five Editor-In-Chief's speak from the Zoom screen to me and the rest of staff. Everyone has left their mark on my reporting and writing. Whether it's the grammar rules drilled in my brain, the needed advice when I couldn’t break the story or the pick-me-up when elections weighed me down.

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Every staff I’ve seen at UF has been full of the passion and drive that student journalists pulse with, the kind that stops a university in its tracks. The Alligator focuses that into the structure and accountability that’s informed our community for decades and built up some of the best journalists I’ve ever known.

The Alligator also had the reputation for being a closed circuit. Despite cycling through a new staff every semester, the same tight knit clique ends up hiring each other.

Our staff this semester could not look more different.

Over half of our staff are newcomers ⁠— first-time Alligators. Staff meetings were about getting people caught up, to the idiosyncrasies of Alligator style and staff traditions. 

I couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve managed to create this semester. I’m honored they trusted me to introduce them to The Alligator. Even those who feel like stray comets are already pulled into the ring. 

The Alligator is now up to them. Up to what they choose to do next semester and the semester after that, what they want to keep and what they need to change. The Alligator is yours and I wouldn’t trust anyone else with it more.

Once an Alligator, always an Alligator.

Lianna Hubbard is a senior women’s study major. She is a lifelong Alligator and was the Editor-In-Chief. 

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Lianna Hubbard

Lianna Hubbard is a reporter for The Alligator’s Investigative Team. The UF women’s study major began as a freelance reporter three years ago. She founded her community college’s award-winning newspaper before beginning at The Independent Florida Alligator. See an issue in your community or a story at UF? Send tips to her Twitter.

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