Name: Ian Cohen
College newspaper: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)
Where I am now: Reporter at the Palm Beach Post/Palm Beach Daily News
The old Alligator building was my second home.
And then it wasn’t. About two years ago the location was sold and the offices were torn down. Newspapers all over the country were downsizing, and so were we.
We memorialized the building the night before. All of us. Not just the 50 or so student journalists working at the Alligator at the time, busting our asses five nights a week with little pay to put out a newspaper we could be proud of, but Alligator alumni, too. They came to celebrate the decades of student journalists who had worked within those walls, paying respect to a place that had meant as much to them as it did to us.
We all piled into the Alligator and drank champagne. We talked and laughed, we swapped stories and shared memories, we sniffled and smiled and sobbed. We went to pay homage to the place where we learned to do journalism. Where our careers began. Where we made lifelong friends.
That place meant so much to so many people. It meant so much to me.
And it still does. That old building may be gone, but the Alligator found a new one. The newspaper may print three days a week instead of five, but the quality of its content is just the same.
I share this story to show the impact the Alligator had on so many people, and how fearlessly it has endured. I have no doubt there are similar stories about other student-run publications across the country.
And that’s why we have to help save them.
College newsrooms are the training grounds for so many of today’s best professional journalists, and if student-run newsrooms lose their independence, then many of the world’s future reporters will be less equipped to watch over a country that relies on a free and independent press.
The Alligator could not have provided decades of students with the journalism experience that it did without being completely independent from the University of Florida. And it could not have provided me with the friendships and the experience that will last a lifetime.