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Saturday, May 18, 2024

A career at The Alligator is one hardly measurable in semesters, editions or manic episodes. 

When I think back to taking copy editing calls on my 15-minute dinner break as a freshman working at the campus dining hall, chasing down conservative pundit Katie Hopkins as she left the bathroom at an Alachua County Republican event, skipping class freshman year to rush to the scene of a sinkhole devastating a neighborhood, sobbing putting together an obituary about someone I never got the chance to meet, running around Plaza of the Americas getting the best angles of TikTok evangelist Sister Cindy, staring with gaping eyes and mouth at a hoard of protesters storming Emerson Hall to protest Ben Sasse — all I can do is grin.

Because it’s not the time spent, but the lead, supporting and featured characters in my story I’ve crossed paths with that mean the most. 

Some, I’ll remember fondly. Others, not so much; there’s no feeling like getting reprimanded by a student newsroom superior who’s neither older nor wiser than you.

If the sterile, white walls or tattered, well-loved couch and Edgar Allen Poe mask that’s there for some reason in our homey Gainesville Sun office could talk, I wonder what they’d say. 

Maybe they’d tell you about when I came into the office for the first time on the Fall 2020 election night — bright-eyed and riding the high of watching doting residents welcome their newest County Commissioner-elect.

Or perhaps the hesitancy I felt walking into our new office wing I had the pleasure of transitioning into as editor, seeing yet again another example of what I’m told is a dwindling industry. But those walls, too — of what was once the Sun’s old publisher’s wing — know a thing or two now about what makes The Alligator special.

Those walls, though some now covered in mold, know The Alligator’s newsroom isn’t for the weak. It’s a pressure cooker of immensely talented, high-strung 20-somethings trying to launch a career in a field where you’re told to do cartwheels for pennies. 

Dealing with big personalities comes with the territory of editor-in-chief. Editing with compassion was always my goal, but often the top job required me to do what I thought was best for the newsroom, not my reputation.

Leading The Alligator’s newsroom felt like 116 years of editor-in-chiefs were breathing down my neck, watching my every move. I could feel the pressure of Ron Sachs, the editor who solidified the paper’s independence from UF in the ’70s. Or that of Kyle Wood, the editor who hired me in 2020, who told me I had a real shot at making it to the top of The Alligator food chain one day.

Spoiler alert: Running a student newsroom wasn’t as easy or breezy as Rory Gilmore made it seem. I had one shot to upkeep its legacy, and it’s safe to say I didn’t blow it. 

This semester, my staff has produced content I’ve been proud to support. In commemoration of Women’s History Month, we put together “Florida Woman,” profiling and celebrating the lovely ladies of UF and Gainesville.

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I also made my interest in covering the environment everyone else’s interest, too, with “Where We Stand,” a collection of stories everyone worked on for several weeks assessing how climate change is and will continue to ravage UF and Gainesville.

What’s most important, though, are those I’m leaving behind. Putting in the amount of effort required to be an editor for four semesters was a task I didn’t take for granted. 

When I looked out at the doting faces at my staff meetings this Spring, I saw boundless potential. I’ve been in rooms with future Alligator editors-in-chief who will do the job better than I ever could have. I’ve edited stories written by journalists who will with no doubt land themselves careers at the most prestigious newspapers when the time comes.

Everything must come to an end, and there comes a time in every Alligator staffer’s life where they transition from the ghost of Alligator present into the ghost of Alligator past.

Thankfully, I see my hard work reflected in the ghost of Alligator future.

I can safely say I’ve lived a thousand lives these past three years inside the confines of our haven nestled in the Gainesville woods off Southwest 13th Street. And it’s time to say a tearful goodbye.

I hope the walls will remember me. I’ll never forget them.

Six semesters here equates to hundreds of people who believed in my worth as a journalist. To be frank, it’s difficult to imagine my life without the community I’ve found at The Alligator. But when I do, I feel pride.

Alan Halaly was the Spring 2023 Editor-in-Chief of The Independent Florida Alligator.

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Alan Halaly

Alan Halaly is a third-year journalism major and the Spring 2023 Editor-in-Chief of The Alligator. He's previously served as Engagement Managing Editor, Metro Editor and Photo Editor. Alan has also held internships with the Miami New Times and The Daily Beast, and spent his first two semesters in college on The Alligator’s Metro desk covering city and county affairs. 

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