Student Career Spotlight: The Independent Florida Alligator
Printing every weekday through the spring and fall semesters, The Independent Florida Alligator has a circulation of over 35,000 and a continued readership topping 52,000, making it one of the most widely-read college newspapers on our list. Founded in 1906, notable alumni have moved on to work at The Miami Herald, The Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, and The New York Times, among others.
University of Florida
Bio: My name is Alex Harris, and I’m the Editor in Chief of The Independent Florida Alligator, the largest student run newspaper in the country. Despite all the hours in the newsroom, I’m a senior in journalism and sustainability studies at the University of Florida. My job at the paper is to hassle writers, edit their stories and make sure the newsroom doesn’t catch on fire. In the future, I’d like to work for NPR and own multiple cats.
1. Tell me about yourself outside of journalism.
I’m a 21-year-old journalism and sustainability studies senior at the University of Florida. In those rare moments outside of the newsroom, I can be found cooking, reading or planning my next adventure. I do a lot of sustainability themed travel, including a month spent in Costa Rica last summer helping with tours of renewable energy plants.
2. Why do you work in journalism?
I landed in journalism because it’s the career that best fits my interest — stories. I love hearing them, telling them and writing them. My goal is journalism is to find the narrative in every story, and use it to engage the reader.
3. What kind of stories do you look for from your writers?
The best stories are those that engage our readers. I look for student-centric stories about topics that actively impact our audience’s lives. We’ve tackled big issues like student government corruption, university researchers receiving death threats for monkey testing and done in-depth profiles on our campus preachers. Creativity is what keeps our newsroom alive and relevant, and it is what keeps students returning to our bright orange boxes every day for their campus news.
4. What do you think The Independent Florida Alligator does differently from the rest of College newspapers?
The Alligator is the largest student-run newspaper in the nation. We’re also independent, which means that while we enjoy having an entire college full of talented journalism professors at our disposal, at the end of the day we’re in charge. We aren’t afraid to take on intimidating stories or to challenge the administration. You’ll also never hear “That’s not my job,” in our newsroom. All of us work together to produce the best paper we can five days a week, and we’re damn proud of it.
Bio: I’m studying journalism and anthropology as a senior at the University of Florida . I just ended my second semester as a staff writer for the Independent Florida Alligator, where I covered the administration beat, which encompassed topics like university policy change and school funding. Now, I’m about to begin my internship at the Gainesville Sun, where I’ll be writing about crime and general assignment stories.
1. Tell me about yourself outside of journalism.
I grew up in a suburban part of Miami where life was easy and the palm trees were always green. My summer months were spent adventuring with friends, while the school year was permeated with books, homework and marriage to the internet. Movies became my favorite hobby in my teenage years, and my repertoire of films is closing in on roughly 500 at a rate of about three a week; however, a contender appeared during my latest semester at the University of Florida. I’m finding myself reading and re-using neat and clever turns of phrases from established journalists. I think it’s more like paying homage than stealing their genius.
2. What typically inspires you to write a story?
My best articles have come from topics that I take a deep interest in: Recently I wrote about firearm regulations for Florida’s state campuses, which directly affect my peers and me. Although it didn’t garner as much attention as some of my other work, I felt like I put a lot of myself into that piece. When I’m not being assigned topics, stories seem to fall into my lap. It might be hearing about city residents upset about a change of management at a grocery store, or the death of a loved professor – as long as you keep your ears open, you’ll find interesting topics to write about.
3. How do you maintain an objective viewpoint when you are passionate about a subject?
Objectivity is the lifeblood of journalism. Without it, the credibility of your words crumbles, and your work can quickly become futile if no one believes a thing you write. Maintaining an unbiased perspective isn’t a choice: Even if I feel someone is clearly in the wrong during my coverage of a conflict, both sides get a fair shot at telling their sides of the story.
4. Which story has gained the biggest response?
Although I’ve written about gun regulations and the search for my university’s new president, an article I wrote about a porn star is the one that’s become a smash hit. A University of Florida graduate took one of her professor’s last name as her stage name in the adult entertainment industry, and has ironically made a name for herself in porn: She was a contender for Best New Starlet during 2014’s AVNs. I wrote a profile piece about her introduction to the industry and her transformation from a shy Gainesville local to a proud and confident rising star. The article came out weeks ago and people still come up to me and tell me how funny it was.