I never had a solid plan for when my time at The Alligator would come to an end.
Some people come in knowing they’ll only spend a semester to get a different set of clips for their portfolio. Other people know they can’t leave this newsroom until they’ve become editor-in-chief, so they can leave the largest impact behind.
I came in wanting neither — I just wanted to learn.
For me, The Alligator came at a crossroads during my time at UF. I was drifting away from my longtime goal of becoming a journalist and thinking of doing the unimaginable: joining the U.S. State Department as a foreign service officer.
But just like that, I came across the application for joining The Alligator almost exactly two years ago. I knew how prestigious and important the paper was at UF. I wasn’t even a journalism major, so I didn’t expect much. After I nervously interviewed for the Spring 2021 staff, I expected even less.
I had fully come to terms that my Alligator career — and hopes of becoming a journalist — had come to an end before it even started.
Why would they take a chance on me?
A phone call offering me the opinions editor position changed that. I was completely over the moon and immediately accepted. My life path was officially altered.
I think it’s safe to say that The Alligator taught me everything I know. It wasn’t just a newsroom — it was a classroom. From learning the ins and outs of AP Style (Carolina, sorry for all those Oxford commas) to becoming a better interviewer, there’s no other place to attribute my knowledge to.
For four semesters, I jumped to a new desk: opinions, university, socials and The Avenue. I knew The Alligator had so much to offer to whoever signed their Sundays away, so I made it my mission to absorb as much talent and knowledge from my friends and mentors as possible.
Then, this Fall, another chance was taken on me to become editor-in-chief.
Being the editor-in-chief wasn’t something I always had my sights set on. I had toyed around with the idea of becoming a managing editor with Kristin Bausch, the Fall 2021 engagement managing editor and my idol.
But “editor-in-chief” carried a different expertise that I wasn’t certain I had.
I had the immediate fear that I wouldn’t do well. After seeing various talented editor-in-chiefs step up to the plate, it was hard to imagine I’d be next. But I did, and I’m so thankful for it.
Sure, there were moments that tested me. My first print night as editor-in-chief was a primary election night, so it was really a trial by fire. In the week following, The Alligator came under attack for falsely working behind the scenes with a local politician. Learning the ropes on how to lead a 60-person staff wasn’t the easiest, either.
But there were so many more big moments to be proud of. Our staff took on midterm elections, Student Government elections, a couple hurricanes, Sen. Ben Sasse’s presidential rise to and a special edition on the impact of Roe v. Wade’s overturn. We proved the power of talented student journalists time and time again, even when some doubted The Alligator.
However, what I’ll truly miss are the little moments that made this semester special.
I’ll miss our eclectic newsroom with more history on its walls than some museums can claim. I’ll miss the Wah Ha Ha dinner breaks — and the after-print night Wawa outings, despite my near-death experience with their buffalo mac & cheese.
There’s the joy of crowning someone on staff as the weekly MVP and the rush of getting someone on a breaking story. Even what feels like constant knocking on my office door during print night will be missed, because behind that door is the face of someone on staff who I respect and admire.
It could’ve been Jiselle coming with an update on a feature or Aurora saying a weeklong investigation was just wrapped up.
There’s a chance it would be Nora coming in with one of her enterprise reporters ready to edit or Lucy returning from a trip around town looking for sources with a metro reporter. It could've even been Veronica just coming in to chat and “be a girl” — which was always welcome.
Best of all, the people sitting right beside me as I’d field questions and concerns in that tiny, cramped office would be Alan and Isabella, who were the best team I ever could have asked for. With them, I always felt steadfast in any decision we made. More importantly, I laughed more than ever with them, even when times were rough.
I was warned Week 16 would come quicker than I’d like it to. When you stare 16 long weeks in the face, that warning seems silly. But it’s true.
Over this semester, I’ve watched so many staff members — some I took a chance on — grow exponentially. There’s so many bright futures ahead in the Fall 2022 staff.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to watch the rest of their journey and cheer them on from afar. But I know they’re in good hands for future semesters to come because that’s the nature of The Alligator.
That’s a chance I’m willing to take.
Makiya Seminera was the Fall 2022 editor-in-chief.
Makiya Seminera is a UF international studies and Arabic senior, with a minor in mass communication. She's currently the editor-in-chief of The Alligator, but has previously served as university administration reporter, The Avenue editor, social media manager and opinion editor. She also serves as managing editor for Florida Political Review. Over summer, she interned with The State in Columbia, South Carolina, as a politics & government reporting intern.