For the past few weeks, I’d been applying, researching and preparing to run for editor in chief of The Independent Florida Alligator, which is billed as the nation’s largest student-run newspaper.
As of Aug. 1, I have the job. I’ve been looking forward to this since I started at the Alligator, and I’m surprisingly feeling a lot of mixed emotions now that I’ve got it.
When I started, I knew I would stick around out of loyalty to the paper and hoped to one day head the organization. However, as I started getting more involved with online journalism, the burning desire to take over grew from frustration with editors who ignored or looked down on our Web site from their high horse.
Some past editors saw the site as nothing more than a way to archive print stories and occasionally scoop The Gainesville Sun. As a student at a college newspaper, I can see the potential for our Web site to take risks and do some truly great journalism – with less bureaucratic oversight than a traditional news organization.
One concern I have is the content management system our site is running on. After some severe miscommunication, our well-meaning general manager signed a two-year contract for a very rigid and outdated CMS. The online staff should not have to spend most of its night shoveling stories onto the Web site.
It’s been a year, and I don’t see why we should continue dealing with the problems this CMS is causing. At the same time, it’s a matter of weighing the penalties of breaking the contract and switching to an open-source CMS with keeping the contract and letting the same limitations persist.
I know what I want, but I’m not a dictator, and I need to involve others in the decision-making process.
In the mean time, I’m getting these great online ideas from people who are returning for the fall, and I get so excited to hear them. Then I wonder how long it would take to make it happen or if we can even do them on this CMS, and I worry.
I just want the best for the Alligator. I want to make Alligator.org a journalism juggernaut. I lose sleep over potential setbacks.
All this time, I’ve imagined myself as being the one who could better the online product while maintaining the integrity of the print product. Now, I feel frustrated that maybe I won’t be the one to get the staff or administration to change their print-centric mindset.
I get discouraged, and I worry about my qualifications. I only know multimedia basics, but I guess it is a matter of mindset over skill set. At the same time, I know it’s going to be long and arduous process and that I have to keep my chin up.
I have so many ideas to start improving our Web site, but now I’m starting to feel overwhelmed. There is a big mess to clean up. It’s like I’m Ty Pennington on Extreme Home Makeover, except he’s not sure how many volunteers are going to show up.
Then when I feel down, I think of past editors who did a great job with the paper yet were rigid when it came to innovation and an understanding of the Web site’s potential. That’s the difference. I can see that, and I’m open to so many ideas.
As I’ve been telling prospective staffers, this is the semester for innovation and ideas. I don’t care how crazy it sounds; I will try any idea once. The way I see it, if we try something and it flops, well, we just won’t do it again. This semester is our chance to experiment.
My spirits have been picking up this week, though. One of my section editors agreed to stick around even though it meant turning down an internship.
“I just knew I would be leaving at the wrong time,” she said. “I didn’t want to look at the paper and Web site every day and wish I had been a part of it. I know you’re going to do a good job.”
Those were words I needed to hear.