Gainesville isn’t what it used to be.
Campus isn’t quite as scenic once you’ve photo- graphed protest after protest through its brick-lined pathways.
The Swamp doesn’t sparkle quite as much when you discover all the ways the athletics department has failed its players.
Lecture halls aren’t half as enthralling when you realize the person to your left was arrested for sexual assault.
Gainesville isn’t what it used to be. It’s not a utopia.
Every journalist at The Alligator eventually faces that reality. We trade our orange-and-blue-colored glasses for just blue-light glasses as we enter our dusty corner of the office and hunch over computer screens every week. It’s the price we pay to report the news — to put together a paper — and we’re (begrudgingly) happy to do it.
The newsroom’s soda-spotted carpets, crumb-ridden couch and nerd-infested nooks somehow kept my eyes bright as the rest of the city dimmed.
I never knew what curveball was coming my way: an essential editorial, a breaking-news story, a peeved PR person.
But I did know who I’d see: the sports desk huddled together, talking about last night’s game; the managing editors recounting the weekend’s endeavors; the budding office romances; the lone freshman.
The sights that used to perplex me became comforting. The dimly lit conference room — lined with bulletin boards overflowing with niche, archaic references I once desperately wished I understood — became adorned with my own arbitrary contributions. Generations of staffers to come will know about one former editor’s love for pickles, affinity for emo music and tendency to sage the office before every print night (hey, it worked).
I hope those future journalists know the newsroom can be a home to all; it witnessed me through multiple relationships, at least five hairstyles and a handful of wardrobe experimentations, so it’s basically a parental figure now.
I hope they know what they’re part of. I hope they read about our journey to independence, our status as the largest student-run newsroom in the county and our ever-expanding quote bag (confidential, sorry).
I hope they know the culture I’ve come to adore wasn’t always there. The unused stations I saw on my first day on staff slowly became occupied with every passing semester. Six people in the office and the rest on Zoom became a bustling newsroom with only a handful of remote employees.
Print nights became my beacon. Friend groups grew. We returned to The Alligator I had only heard tales of from my first editor.
Despite the comforting buzz, I always left the office exhausted after the presses started up every Sunday night. I wondered if I was doing a good job. I worried I was pushing the staff too much. I worried maybe I wasn’t pushing them enough. I never went straight to sleep. Sometimes, I didn’t sleep at all.
But I was always ready to tackle the next week, the next story, the next phone call. As I close the office doors one last time, I’ll be forced to face this seemingly dystopian world. At least I’ll be armed with the lessons I’ve learned in this shabby basement.
Gainesville, the country and this planet aren’t what they used to be, but they gave me The Alligator. That’s more than enough.
Julia Coin was the Editor-in-Chief of The Independent Florida Alligator.
Julia Coin, a 21-year-old UF journalism senior, previously served as The Alligator's multimedia editor, university editor and digital managing editor. She also covered trends of sexual assault on UF's campus for WUFT News and reported for the Gainesville Sun.
She first stumbled into a reporter's role after she saw Rory Gilmore, of the hit 2000s dramedy "Gilmore Girls," attempt to juggle the student journalist life Julia now knows oh so well. After finishing the series, her passion manifested in co-founding her high school's first online newspaper. Now, she leads one of the nation's largest student-run newsrooms with the help of good coffee, well-curated playlists and her Alligator family.