For those unfamiliar with the structure of the Alligator newsroom, here’s an explanation. First, there’s what we call “Big Three.” These are the three highest-ranked editors, running the newsroom and inspiring fear in the hearts of underclassmen. Then, there are desk editors. These editors are responsible for managing a team of reporters focused on covering various sections. And then, reporters.
It seems like a clear hierarchical system — but there’s a catch. The editor yelling at you to do better on a Friday at 11 p.m. is the same girl who had a fact error in your reporting class. The managing editor berating you over a grammatical error is the same kid who won’t do his part for your multimedia group project. The dynamics of a student newsroom are messy, to say the least.
It’s easy to accept the newsroom hierarchy, and it’s even easier to forget that your editors aren’t that far ahead of you. It’s hard not to think that the “congrats!” comment on a personal news thread is condescending when it comes from someone who once said you weren’t good enough for that very role.
I’ve spent five semesters at The Alligator, three of those as a desk editor. And recently, I’ve noticed a shift. Managing editors who used to seem terrifying are now my friends. Freshman reporters I used to see hurry home after meetings are now sticking around to chat. The best part of The Alligator — besides its phenomenal coverage — is the community it creates.
Young journalists become professionals in this newsroom. Freshmen make their best friends and write their best stories. Seniors stay up until 1 a.m. editing flats and complaining about exams. The newsroom has shaped me, too, into the journalist and person I am today. I am forever grateful to the phenomenal Fall 2022 Big Three; Makiya Seminera, Alan Halaly and Isabella Douglas for leading an excellent semester with grace and patience, and I have the utmost faith in Alan, Veronica Nocera and Aurora Martinez to continue and expand upon this legacy. I also want to thank Heather Bushman for just being her.
My advice to Alligator staff to come is this: Reporters, don’t forget that your editor is on your side. Editors, don’t forget that less than a year ago, you were that reporter running late to the city commission meeting. I have seen The Alligator change before my eyes, and it will continue to do so. Just don’t forget the things that make The Alligator so special.
If I could, I would relive my time at The Alligator all over again — tears and all. Instead, I’ll have to settle for reliving the best memories in my head, and living as the person the paper has shaped me to be.
Nora O'Neill was the Enterprise Editor at The Independent Florida Alligator.
Nora O'Neill is a fourth-year journalism and philosophy student and the Enterprise Editor for The Alligator. She previously served as the Avenue Editor and the business and economics beat reporter. In her free time you can find her reading books with no plot and abusing her Chemex.