Name: Melissa Gomez
College publications: The Independent Florida Alligator
Where I am now: Reporter at the Los Angeles Times
I graduated from the University of Florida in 2018. And when I think back to my college days, I remember the long nights of reporting out student government stories, chugging iced hazelnut lattes from Karma Cream and eating one too many garlic knots from Leo’s.
Well, Leo’s, a longtime Gainesville staple, is no longer around. The Alligator’s office is no longer on University Avenue. Karma Cream is still serving great lattes, it just takes a little longer to get there from campus.
A lot has changed since those days. But one thing that hasn’t is the commitment from journalists at The Alligator to keep putting out important stories to serve the community. The newspaper business, like Gainesville, is going through a lot of change as well. As print revenue declines, newspapers across the U.S are looking at ways to reach an audience online. Student journalists are much scrappier: with limited resources, they make do with what they have. Luckily, with UF’s College of Journalism, some resources are often available, like advice from seasoned journalists or equipment to cover stories.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. With more support, student newsrooms can have a greater impact on their communities. With the help of digital partnerships and collaborations, student journalists can come out of college with the skills and resources to succeed after college. Many student newspapers are making the transition to digital-first, but many others are going to need support from their alumni, and the journalism community, to survive the next decade.
If there is anything I learned from my days at the Alligator, it’s that there is always a way to keep telling stories. Student journalists have proved that this past year. Even with classes being remote, they can keep reporting on institutions and holding them accountable. They’ve put together editions of the paper remotely, and made digital copies available. They’ve pushed for transparency from their universities because often they’re the only ones there to do the job.
So if there’s one last thing I learned, it’s to never underestimate a journalist who learned how to report in a student newsroom.