Saving journalism, one newsroom at a time

This fall marks my 40th year as a college teacher. One of the great things about this technology is that it allows me to keep in touch with so many former students. It’s like an illustrated rolodex of my life.

How are you doing? (I’m OK — still rolling with the punches.)

The Alligator newsroom

I approach this milestone with gratitude for having known so many dedicated people. I hope the classes we shared were worthwhile.

“Was it good for you?” (It was for me.)

But I also realize that some of your greatest learning was committed outside of the classroom. So I salute all of you who learned how to be journalists at the
College Heights Herald, the Oklahoma Daily, the Independent Florida Alligator or the Daily Free Press. Working for a campus newspaper is a tremendous experience.

It should come as no surprise that what we do is under attack. People who have committed their lives to keeping news flowing through these arteries of information are being vilified. We’re not enemies of the people. As I’ve always maintained, we’re the heroes, not the villains.

So keeping a student-run press free and independent is vital.
With Evan Katz in the Oklahoma Daily newsroom, 1985

I bring up all of this because I have been asked to alert you to a fund-raising drive for the Independent Florida Alligator. I spent 24 of these 40 years at the University of Florida, and I might be able to reach some people who might not be reached otherwise. (By the way: I’ll also happily try to help raise money for the Herald, the Daily or the FreeP. Ask, and I will do everything I can.)

If you were in my journalism history class — whether at Western Kentucky, Oklahoma, Florida or Boston — you probably heard me read attorney Andrew Hamilton’s statement at the trial of John Peter Zenger in 1735: “You see I labor under the weight of many years, and am borne down with great infirmities of body; yet old and weak as I am, I should think it my duty, if required, to go to the utmost part of the land where my service could be of any use in assisting to quench the flame of prosecutions upon information, set on foot by the government….”

(This Hamilton was not the subject of the musical. That was the other guy.)

And, considering we are in a death battle for the continued existence of free speech, this quote from Thomas Paine’s
American Crisis — always a class favorite — comes to mind: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. ‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Some Alligator staffers at a McKeen Christmas party, circa 1988. Left to right, Frank Fernandez, Juan Borras, Jeff Gardenour and Carl Herzog.

I present a statement below relating directly to the fund-raising drive for the Alligator. I urge you to give and, in every way you can, to support the journalism in its myriad forms. To quote Tom Paine again, a little earlier in that same paragraph: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

The major forces behind this fund-raising effort are David Dahl of the Boston Globe, Rick Hirsch of the Miami Herald and Aaron Sharockman of Politifact.

Read David Dahl’s note below. If you’re from Western or OU or BU, maybe use what they have done as a model for other fund-raising efforts. We need to stick together.


From David Dahl:

I’m writing to fill you in on the Alligator.

As you might have heard, a group of alums and current staffers are working to steady the finances of the beloved college paper and steer it toward a solid future in the digital world.

They’ve expanded the
Alligator board to include Miami Herald Managing Editor Rick Hirsch and Politifact Executive Director Aaron Sharockman; decided to go down to publishing three days a week; and are now turning to our many alums and friends of the Alligator to raise money.

If you’re a friend with me on Facebook, you’re probably quite familiar with the importance of the
Alligator as a training ground for young professionals in journalism, advertising and public relations. You may well have benefited yourself by working there.

Now it’s time to give back. You can make a tax deductible donation to Campus Communications, the 501(c)3 that runs the
Alligator. The Alligator and its core group of supporters are trying to raise $250,000 by next spring to offset the costs of student stipends and advance college journalism.

Yes, that’s a lot of money, already hundreds of alumni and friends of the Alligator have indicated they are willing to help reach that goal.

To donate, you can use the Pay Pal link in the upper right hand corner of the Alligator’s site,

If you want more information about the Alligator, you can also fill out an online form to get on a mailing list. The address to sign up is:

And of course if you have any questions or wish to discuss this directly, feel free to write for further information.

Thanks very much for your consideration. We need your help!