From Ariana Figueroa: ‘The experience and friendships made there are priceless’

Ari

Name: Ariana Figueroa

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

Where I am now: News Assistant at CNN

I would not be the journalist I am today without my student newspaper. And that’s not because The Alligator gave me an environment that allowed me to learn how to write, edit and make mistakes. All of those skills are valuable, but the reason I am still in journalism is because of those lifelong friends I made at the paper. Those friends were the ones that calmed my doubts about whether or not I’d make it as a journalist and gave me confidence when I needed it most. I would have quit a long time ago if it weren’t for that support group I found at my student paper.

The Alligator gave me the ability to be a leader and grow into the woman I am today, and it gave me a sisterhood I never imagined having.

Student papers matter and the experience and friendships made there are priceless. If student papers don’t get the support they need and deserve, it’s going to put limits on what the next generation of journalists can accomplish.

From Ken Schwencke: ‘It taught me more than class ever could’

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Name: Ken Schwencke

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

Where I am now: News Apps Developer at Propublica

When former a former managing editor at my student newspaper, The Alligator, noticed a map I’d published and asked me to work with her, it was the start of my career.

As anyone reading this knows, the experience at a student newsroom is incomparable: working on deadline, turning ideas on a dime, punching up. You have free rein to decide what’s news and to go after stories you think matter. It’s a freedom you might not get for a decade into your actual career, and a crucial time to try new things and make mistakes.

So for all that, I’m thankful. It taught me more than class ever could, and without it I’d be something awful, like a lawyer.

From Mia Gettenberg: ‘We need to pay attention when student and local journalists speak up.’

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Name: Mia Gettenberg

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

In Fall 2015, I started working at The Independent Florida Alligator as a sophomore at the University of Florida. With some experience in journalism in high school, I began as a copy editor, working late nights with student editors, writers and photographers to put out our best work each day. I later became copy desk chief and then held the position of print managing editor during Summer 2016. I’ve been a columnist at the paper since January 2017, and I will graduate in a few weeks.

Without a doubt, The Alligator showed me firsthand the passion and dedication of local journalists. We need students to continue pursuing their dreams in journalism, a profession increasingly coming under scrutiny in this political age, to hold our elected officials accountable, learn more about the world around us and know where to devote our attention and resources.

I always loved the news, though I never wanted to enter journalism myself. From the start, I knew I wanted to one day attend law school and pursue my interests in educational, environmental and civil-rights issues within the legal realm. However, my experiences at The Alligator and the friends I made along the way helped shape me into the person I am today — academically, professionally and personally.

We need to pay attention when student and local journalists speak up. These people work tirelessly to bring us the news each day, to make us better, more informed citizens who can go out and effect change in our neighborhoods, states and nations. After witnessing the careful consideration and effort my friends at The Alligator put into their work 24/7, I know we need to prioritize our student newsrooms.

From Rick Hirsch: ‘We reached high, worked hard’ at The Alligator

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Name: Rick Hirsch

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

Where I am now: The Managing Editor at the Miami Herald

I worked at the Independent Florida Alligator while studying journalism at the University of Florida. In the summer of 1979, serial killer Ted Bundy went on trial in Miami for the murder of two female students at Florida State University. On a whim, I drove home to Miami to cover the trial, and wrote a long enterprise profile that we published live with his guilty verdict. That story won first place in the William Randolph Hearst competition for general news writing. Only at the Alligator could I have the opportunity to be so ridiculously ambitious. We reached high, worked hard and learned daily journalism from my student peers — many of whom became friends for life.