The thing about working at The Independent Florida Alligator is that it sucks. It sucks a lot. The only semester at UF I didn’t work at The Alligator, I got straight A’s and my professors liked me.
“This’ll all result in a job eventually, right?” My father, his MBA diploma hanging on the wall of his office, will ask me when I explain it’s okay that my grades are bad.
“Yeah, it's guaranteed,” I’ll lie.
Cosmic dominoes fell when I was in preschool: Some creep in a Harvard dorm created Facebook, it destroyed local news and maybe American democracy, and now a bunch of barely-20-year-olds are responsible for the most important media organization in a 50-mile radius.
No pressure, kids.
We work out of a decrepit, moldy building that is now just the graveyard of what used to be a thriving local newspaper. Decades-old mold gathers on the ceiling and flies spawn out of nowhere.
It could be worse, I’d sometimes tell myself, you could work for WUFT.
I could say I put in all this work to serve the UF and Gainesville communities, which would be noble. I could say I did it all for the clips and for a career after graduation, which would be cynical, but understandable in this dying industry. But neither is exactly true.
I did it because the people around me were doing it.
If I had to do it alone, I would have waded long ago into Lake Alice in the middle of the night, slathered in barbeque sauce for the alligators to put me out of my misery.
But I didn’t have to do it alone — and that’s why I wouldn’t trade my three semesters at The Alligator for anything in the world.
I’ve watched other student journalists take zeros on assignments, cancel dates and go a night, maybe two, without sleep to finish a story that, at best, would earn them a crisp $6 direct deposit, and at worst, a very angry message from an unhinged person.
I’ve seen them break down, recover with wild eyes, then break down again. But every Sunday morning they came back.
Maybe the members of my University Desk during my final semester as editor — Alissa Gary, Ella Thompson, Sophia Bailly, Sydney Johnson, Peyton Harris, Alessandra Inzinna and Amanda Friedman — would from time to time drive me a little insane.
But I can also tell you there was nothing I looked forward to more on a Monday morning than reading their stories in ink.
As much as I would bicker with Claire Grunewald every print night, who else would I complain with about anything and everything throughout the week, because each of us knew exactly what the other was talking about?
What was better than sitting at 11:30 p.m. during flat edits with Jiselle Lee or Emma Behrmann or Jackson Reyes and Kyle Bumpers (they were always together) and laughing maniacally in a sleep-deprived delirium?
And I can’t emphasize how funny it was to text Aurora Martínez that I would get to work right away on a draft she needed and then immediately take a nap.
The memory of every painful night, grueling edit and needless argument will wash away. What will remain is all the work I’m proud to have below my byline and all the time I was lucky enough to spend with some truly remarkable people.
In a week, I’ll have left Gainesville — the end of a very strange college experience. I’ll begin a new life and career, make new friends and manufacture new feuds with new bosses. But honestly, all I can think about is how excited I am to see what my friends at The Alligator do.
The younger reporters still have a few years in that moldy newsroom to make their mark at a university and a state that now more than ever needs an honest press on their asses. The other graduates, about to begin their professional careers, will branch off to different parts of the country and do truly incredible work.
And I plan on reading every word.
Christian Casale was the Spring 2023 University Editor of The Independent Florida Alligator.
Christian Casale is a history senior and the university desk editor for The Alligator. In his spare time, he loves writing his bio for the website and watching movies alone in the dark.