Before I joined The Alligator, I always heard people say that the best thing you get out of working here is the people you meet. This is corny but true, like most things.
It’s a strange time to be a journalism student in Florida, but to be fair, it’s a strange time to be a journalist, a student or in Florida individually. The resulting camaraderie at The Alligator has been one of the most impactful parts of my time in Gainesville.
After three semesters, my time here has come to an end. My preferred way to leave is without saying anything, but expressing my gratitude is the least I can do.
So, I want to sincerely thank the friends I have made here. As an arts and culture reporter, my editor Kristine Villarroel shaped my introduction to The Alligator. She took arts and culture seriously and respected every story we turned in. She started as someone I looked up to with slight intimidation and quickly turned into my closest friend at the paper.
There are many people over the course of my three semesters who I am incredibly grateful for, and while I can’t list out everyone, my summer Avenue reporters and fall multimedia team made me incredibly proud as an editor. Thank you for your trust, patience and hard work. You guys are superstars!
Additionally, I am so grateful for all the women I worked with in the newsroom. While the work environment at The Alligator was positive, there were times I was the only woman in the room and it was noticeable. There were times I heard arts and culture is a waste of time or energy, but that’s not true. Arts and culture, among other female-dominated topics, are important. Art and culture are what you remember about a place.
I got to talk to people using art, theater, poetry and music to impact the lives of those around them. This connection made my world so much bigger than UF and the J-School. Students often forget that Gainesville has been here long before us, and it will be here long after. The city that may be a short four-year flashback for some is a culturally rich, permanent home to many.
That culture will outlast the transient student population that so much this city’s resources get poured into. I am so grateful that I got to not only share these stories through my reporting and photography, but see this side of Gainesville first-hand.
Lauren Whiddon was the Fall 2023 multimedia editor at The Independent Florida Alligator.
Lauren Whiddon is a UF journalism senior and the multimedia editor. When she's not writing she is updating her Letterboxd account or reading classic literature.