From TyLisa C. Johnson: At my student publications, we made something out of virtually nothing

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Name: TyLisa C. Johnson

College publications:  The Famuan, Journey magazine (Tallahassee, Florida)

Where I am now:  Incoming Lenfest Fellow, Reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer

When I became editor-in-chief of Florida A&M University’s Journey magazine, we had the tiniest budget in recent memory; about $1200 a semester. It was a moment that left me grappling with an industry-wide question: How do I make more with less?
Two years later, by way of creativity and finesse, I had overseen the publishing of six magazines — most printed, some exclusively digital. So early in my career, I learned about the issues plaguing the journalism field, but also of the field’s importance. Time and time again, my staff and I made something out of (virtually) nothing and then took that something and made it award-winning. I gained my deepest friendships and most cherished memories working until 4 a.m. in the magazine office to make deadlines, or reporting on a three-hour Board of Trustees meeting for our student newspaper, The Famuan. Reporting for The Famuan taught me bravery, compassion and the importance of having someone to hold the “higher powers that be” accountable. It was truly a highlight of my college career. The nights spent on my makeshift bed (office couch) are what eventually led to bigger journalistic opportunities for me, a black, female reporter. Outside of what wonderful things these newsrooms do for students, everyone should support student newsrooms, because those newsrooms help shape our country’s future. Those newsrooms are the foundation for people who will go on to write the news stories of tomorrow, potentially changing the culture or the country with their words. So please, support student newsrooms and continue to encourage young journalists to be the brave journalists our country needs.

From Ben Conarck: The Vermont Cynic ‘reaffirmed my commitment to the profession’

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Name: Ben Conarck

College publication: The Vermont Cynic ( Burlington, Vermont)

Where I am now: Investigative Reporter at The Florida Times-Union

As an undergrad, I went to a school without a formal journalism program (the University of Vermont). In my sophomore year, I decided I needed an extracurricular activity and, due to my interest in journalism, decided to start volunteering for the student-run newspaper: The Vermont Cynic. I learned some of the basics of the craft and began reporting. Within a semester, I was editing other students. I would have never entertained the idea of a career in journalism without the ability to try it out myself in a low-stakes, low-risk environment. This reaffirmed my commitment to the profession and helped inform my career decisions post-graduation.

From Carolyn Roque: Journalism and the truth matter so much right now.

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Name: Carolyn Roque

Where I am now: FSView & Florida Flambeau/Staff Writer (Tallahassee, Florida)

My interest in journalism began in high school after I took a journalism class and then went on to join the yearbook staff for the next 3 years. Yearbook was a huge part of my life and I learned things that helped me in college at every level. The work and friendships I made shaped who I am, and those memories are still clear as day in my head (like watching Shattered Glass to learn about ethics, and learning to write movie reviews after watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

When I began college, I pretty much stepped away from journalism and went on to study creative writing. As a junior in college, I’ve found my way back to journalism and it feels like home (cue dramatic music).

I am thankful to the FSView for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their wonderful team. I am proud to write for this award-winning paper that so many put so much time and effort into every week and every day.

Without student newsrooms, I don’t know how prepared I would be for this career that I hope to pursue. Without student newsrooms, I wouldn’t of met the pretty incredible people that I know today. Without student newsrooms, I would have nowhere to place the curiosity and restlessness that us journalists live with.

Journalism and truth matters so much right now. We need to keep student newsrooms alive because these students are the ones that will go on to become the journalists that uncover truths that need to be told, or tell stories of those who don’t have a voice, or even bring people to justice. I’m talking like the staff of The Washington Post, uncovering years of Roy Moore’s sexual harassment history. The New York Times covering the Russian interference in the 2016 election. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s coverage of Hollywood’s sexual predators. & So. Much. More.

Journalism matters and it all starts in student newsrooms. Pick up a paper, follow some socials, and support, support, support. #SaveStudentNewsrooms

From Adam Lichtenstein: I wouldn’t be who I am today without The Alligator

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Name: Adam Lichtenstein

College publication: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: Sports Reporter at Palm Beach Post

I didn’t get to college dreaming of being a journalist. I wanted to work for a sports team in some capacity. I had worked on my high school newspaper, mostly to bolster my college resume. But after half a semester at the University of Florida, I realized I missed writing and that I really didn’t have a career path in sports. So I figured I’d give journalism a shot.

After a couple semesters in the journalism program, I basically idolized The Alligator. The writers, particularly in the sports section, were insightful, witty and, most of all, really good. After a few tries, I was hired onto the staff. I spent my last two years of college working for the paper, and they were an amazing two years. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I certainly wouldn’t be the journalist I am, without The Alligator.

From Colleen Wright: ‘There’s nothing like producing professional work with your best friends’

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Name: Colleen Wright

College publication: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: Education Reporter at the Miami Herald

I credit my time at the Independent Florida Alligator as not only a springboard to four internships and a job offer in college, but also as the cornerstone of my entire college experience. I grew as a journalist and as a person in my three years at the Alligator. In addition to providing real-world opportunities at the student level, it gave me a social scene and a support group. I’ve made friends for life at the paper. There’s nothing like producing professional work with your best friends five nights a week. Student newspapers are the real college journalism learning experience, ones that employers look to for real-world and leadership skills. They are the biggest asset to budding journalists everywhere. #savestudentnewspapers!

From Katelyn Newberg: ‘Student journalism is hard but we do it because we’re passionate.’

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Name: Katelyn Newberg

College newspaper: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: Incoming intern at the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, Nevada)

When you tell others about your experiences at a student publication, you don’t normally talk about the bad stuff.
You say that it was the best four semesters of your life. You gush over the life-long friends you met and the important stories you were honored to write down. You laugh when remembering the late-night coffee runs and scrambling to make deadlines.
But in all honesty? Student journalism is incredibly hard. It’s not fun to try and balance homework, studying, exams, keeping up relationships and just maintaining your life when you spend all your time working for a student paper. You probably don’t get paid well. You’re lucky if you get paid at all.
So why do we do it? For me, I spent four years at the Independent Florida Alligator because it ignited a passion for journalism that no class assignment could. I barely knew anything about journalism when I stumbled upon the paper in a dilapidated fraternity house in Gainesville, Florida. But over the next three years I would go on to serve as a staff writer, university editor and, finally, editor-in-chief.
Student journalism gave me the chance to tell stories I never dreamed I would be able to. I’ve talked to survivors of sexual assault, a U.S. senator, an Olympic ice skater and protesters in Washington, D.C. I’ve seen everything from student government scandals to a white supremacist on our campus, and I’m incredibly thankful for the chance to cover all of it.
More on that white supremacists: I have never seen a group of college students working so hard on a common goal than when Richard Spencer came to UF. We were there with the national newspapers and the professional journalists from across Florida. We chased after groups of protesters, never knowing if the situation was going to get dangerous. We made a paper that I was incredibly proud of and covered the story from the perspective of our audience, the students at UF. That’s what student journalism can do.
So student journalism is hard but we do it because we’re passionate. Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always cut it. As editor in chief in Fall 2017, I oversaw the paper from printing five days a week to three days a week for the first time. My staff had pay cuts to their already bleak paychecks. I was afraid that if I really screwed up, the paper would suffer even more. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to print at all.
Student journalists need help, and sometimes we have to admit we can’t save ourselves. So next time you see an article online that looks interesting, give it a read. Pick up a copy of the paper on your way to class. Get a subscription if one is available. Donate to your local student publication if you’re able to. We’re the future of journalism and while we’re not going anywhere, we really could use your help.
Looking back on my time at the Alligator, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. I probably wouldn’t have an internship when I graduate in less than two weeks without it. All I can hope is that when the next nervous sophomore walks into the paper’s office, they will have the chance to learn and grow as much as I did.

From Emily Cochrane: ‘Independence meant you fought for every story and challenged every authority’

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Name: Emily Cochrane

College newspaper: The Independent Florida Alligator (Gainesville, Florida)

Where I am now: News assistant at The New York Times

It was the first day of class, and I already felt behind.

The professor took an informal poll to determine everyone’s journalism experience. Hands shot up: newspaper editors-in-chief, yearbook editors-in-chief, freelancers for the local paper.

Me? I had two weeks of journalism camp and a gut feeling that journalism was what I wanted to do. But I didn’t have much more than that.

The Independent Florida Alligator was the first place where none of that mattered, where engineering majors could become masters of AP Style and age was only a problem when the election watch parties were in a bar. It only mattered that you worked hard and wrote the truth.

I lost track of the sunrises I watched from the back parking lot, the ones I caught because I was there so early, or stumbling out so late. I knocked on doors, figured out how to read police reports and attended funerals for strangers so their names were more than a line in a press release. I found my best friends in a blur of late night transcripts, deadline coffee runs and election night pizza.

Independence means you get to experiment. Cover the women’s golf team for a semester? Go for it (and realize you never want to do it again). Experience college football games from the photography sidelines (and have your family watch on TV when a linebacker runs into you by mistake). Keeping the paper from going to print until the moment when you can slip the final election results? Do everything in your power so the newsstands carry the full story.

But most importantly, its independence meant you fought for every story and challenged every authority. Questioning professors and the administration doesn’t jeopardize your education. The student government leaders become politicians and lawyers, and they do so knowing what it’s like to have a press holding them accountable.

To borrow a phrase from one of my mentors, the Alligator was the place where I fell in love with journalism and with its people. Independence, outside of a classroom, is what made that possible.