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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Jean Chance
Interviewer: Mark Ward
Date: January 22, 2003
W: It is January 22, 2003. This is for the Alligator Oral History Project, and I'm with
Professor Jean Carver Chance. Professor Chance, where were you from
C: Well, interestingly, I am from Gainesville originally. [I] did not grow up here, but
my dad was in law school [at the University of Florida]. In 1938, I was born in
Alachua County, in Alachua General Hospital, and shortly thereafter returned to
his [her father's] family home in Lakeland, in central Florida, which is where I
really grew up.
W: Why did you choose the University of Florida?
C: I chose University of Florida against my dad's wishes because he thought I
should go to a more appropriate school for young women, Florida State
University. I came to the University of Florida because I wanted to be a journalist.
I'm one of those weird folks that knew the moment I set foot on campus that I
wanted a newspaper career, not just journalism, but newspaper journalism. This
program had gotten recognition during my senior year in high school as being
one of the top programs in the country. It was a school at the time, not a college,
so my interest was to come here, even though I had gone to a high school
summer journalism institute at Florida State. I liked it very much, but they were in
the process of dismantling the journalism program at Florida State. It was a no-
brainer for me, but I had to win my dad over, even though he loved the University
of Florida. It was an issue of, is the University of Florida a pretty rough and
tumble guys-kind-of-school reputation. He wasn't sure that this was the right
place for me.
W: What year did you first arrive on campus?
C: I came in 1956, the fall of 1956.
W: When did you start working at the Alligator and what caused to start working
C: I came here with the intent of being a journalism major. [I] got active in probably
the second semester of my freshman year. I thought I needed to get my feet on
the ground and learn what it was like to be a college student. So it wasn't
immediate, but early in my freshman year, I was interested in learning the ropes
of the Alligator.
W: What did your father think of that decision of working for the student newspaper?
C: I think my father, over time, just became resigned that things were going to
happen probably the way I hoped that they would happen and wanted them to
happen. He just sort of accepted that fact that this was what I wanted to do,
although all through college he would suggest, "Well, why don't you take just a
few education courses so that you could always have that to fall back on." He
always thought that was a much more respectable thing for a woman to do, to be
a teacher than to be a journalist. So we sort of always had this issue between us,
and I think he was always thrilled that I eventually got my master's and became a
W: What was the female representation like in the journalism school at that period?
C: Not only the journalism] school, but the whole university was heavily [male]. I
think the ratio was three to one, men to women, which was nice if you were a
woman. In the college it was even greater. I think there were probably [ten
women] out of 150 students [unclear], which I think is just about what it was in
the college when I was here in an undergraduate program, that there were
maybe ten women [in] total. So it's changed a great deal.
W: When you were hired onto the Alligator, was the ratio of women there also low?
C: Oh, absolutely, and I was not hired onto the Alligator. I'm not sure anybody got
paid, certainly under the rank of editor, managing editor, and probably on the
business side in advertising. At that time the Alligatorwas only published, we
thought it was fabulous, twice a week. It was a broadsheet, it was not a tabloid
paper, and we thought we were doing quite well to get that paper out two days a
W: Who brought you to the Alligator? Who was the first person you contacted there?
C: You know, honestly, I don't remember. I think I had probably responded to an ad
in the paper that they were having an open house or some kind of reception for
new staff. At that time the Alligator was in the basement of the student union, the
Florida Union building, which is central campus now, which I guess is Dauer Hall.
W: What were the offices like during that period in the basement?
C: They were wonderfully seedy. It was always a problem [during] any sustained
period of rain being in the basement. You really always had problems with
unwelcome water coming in. What was located in the basement was basically all
the student publications. We had The Alligator, the yearbook, which was the
Seminole at that time, and there was a humor magazine called The Orange Peel.
Then there was a sort of general, all purpose recreation room at one end of the
hall down in the basement with us, and that was where all the pool tables were.
That seemed very convenient for those on the staff who were pool sharks.
W: Was the newsroom one giant room or did the editor have his own office?
C: Basically, it was kind of a split room with sort of a small entry area with desks for
the editor and managing editor, and then the basic newsroom was a rectangular
room off to the south end. It was very specific that we had a rule that the editors
monitored. They did not want news sources, or at least some news sources, no
politicos from student government were ever allowed, or rarely allowed, to come
past their offices. It was okay for them to come in and talk on the editorial side,
but they were not to come and harass the reporters in the newsroom.
W: Who were the staff members when you first started working there?
C: Well, the people I remember, and one of the best editors that I worked with was
Lee Fennell. Lee eventually got a graduate degree and became a professor and
did a lot of international relations. I think he was in political science. The editor I
worked most closely with [in my] junior and senior years and remains a good
friend to this day is Joe Thomas, [and the] managing editor was James McGuirk.
They both live in Miami [and] they are still very close friends. Jim became an
attorney. [He] went to law school here and he's a lawyer. On the staff, I guess I
would remember Claire Cooper [and Jim Moorehead, who became managing
editor]. A number of people on it would be on the staff on and off, particularly
people who were in the journalism program. Early during my freshman year when
I was there, Becky Greer, who was in the journalism college, has had quite a
successful career in magazines and is in New York. Probably other names will
come, but those are the ones I probably remember most. There were members
of my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, who came over on and off to the Alligator, and
those would have been like a woman named Ann Bickell, but I don't think she
stayed very long on the staff. Those are the ones I remember the most.
W: In your initial time spent at the Alligator I know you did a number of stories based
on religion and religion in life week. In your early career as a staff writer, first off,
do you remember what your first story was in the Alligator?
C: I honestly do not [remember].
W: Do you remember the feeling or perception you would get from fellow students of
yours when something was published?
C: Well, it was always good as a journalism student to get things published in the
Alligator because you certainly got more recognition from your professors who
would comment about them in class. I think, normally, we would get extra credit
in journalism, so you really wanted to be very active in either getting assigned
stories from the Alligator or coming up with your own enterprise stories,
particularly as extra credit stories because it would also count to help your grade
in journalism class. So I do remember that very distinctly.
W: Were the journalism faculty very hands-on with the Alligator at the time, or the
students who were working for the Alligator?
C: I think it was mixed. I would say, for example, Joe Thomas, [who] was a political
science major in liberal arts, was fairly anti- journalism] school. It, a lot of times,
would vary by the editors whether they were in the journalism school or not. Lee
Fennel was a journalism major, so he was certainly not anti j-school. Obviously,
with the Alligator not being part of the journalism program, there was a reluctance
by most faculty to appear to be trying to dictate to or dominate the Alligator.
Although you had more student publications at that time, and I believe John Paul
Jones was, at that point, probably the chairman and John Webb, who was on the
faculty in the j-school, was chairman for quite some time, so it really depended a
lot on, I think from the faculty's perspective, "How much do you want us to be
involved?" It would really vary between what the managing editor and editor felt.
But you knew as a student in the journalism program who were the people who
were most consistently supportive of the Alligator or a friend, kind of an unofficial
friends of the Alligator group. We would often consult with them, talk to them
about a problem with a story, or get ideas for stories. It was a more informal
relationship, I think, between the Alligator and certain members of the faculty who
seemed to be friends of the program, than the very formal relationship of the
board of student publications. Those faculty members who came from the college
were probably more the authority figures.
W: Is there any particular incident you can remember where you went to a faculty
member for advice on a story, or any other writers?
C: During my time on the paper, we were very interested in, I mean this was a
heyday of Senator Charley Johns investigating committee for the legislature,
looking allegedly for communist and homosexual activities. They were supposed
to be twisting and distorting the minds of these impressionable poor college
students. We were grossly offended by this, so we did everything we could to
make things uncomfortable if we knew, for example, the Johns Committee would
be coming to campus to be having meetings, formal or otherwise. We would
really go out of our way to write stories, have editorials, [and] the photographers
were always on those if they could identify investigators to get the pictures. This
really annoyed the president, J. Wayne Reitz [University of Florida,1955-1967], a
great deal. We tried to be as feisty and muckraking as we knew how to be.
Probably, along the way, I would guess [that] more than talking to the journalism
faculty, [we] probably [were] consulting more with political faculty, like Manning
Dauer and some of the history faculty members, J.E. Dovell from the political
science department. Probably Manning Dauer as much as anybody was
someone we respected a great deal. Buddy Davis in the journalism program we
respected a great deal. Hugh Cunningham may have been on the board at that
time because it was kind of a political split between liberal and conservative,
Democrat and Republican, between more liberal Buddy Davis and more
conservative Hugh Cunningham.
W: Did the Board of Student Publications ever pressure the editors with censorship
issues in this period based on Johns Committee stories or any other?
C: I don't remember the board putting pressure upon [us]. The editors would
certainly be more aware of that than the staff. I had no personal issues. I would
have liked to do things like investigate with the other person on the staff who was
very close, and he and I worked together our senior year as a team. We were
sort of the investigative team, the I-team at the Alligator at that period. His name
was Harry Rape. The name he now uses, he lives in Jacksonville, [is] Harry
Reagan. He went into television. He worked at The Miami Herald and then went
into television and worked at the Jacksonville station for many, many years. He's
now at the public information [office] in the Sheriffs Department in Duval County.
He and I got interested in things about conditions on campus and married
student housing, so I am sure that the editors heard from the administration
officials and people within housing [about] why we were doing this. They never
came to us.
W: There was no trickle down from the editors?
C: No, if anything it was more praise, more reward. We certainly were not getting
reward in the salary, it'd be an attaboyy" [good work] kind of thing.
W: What positions did you hold at the Alligator chronologically?
C: Essentially, I was a staff writer the whole time. I was never the editor. I think they
tried to give us titles. When Harry and I were doing work, maybe as senior
writers, I honestly don't remember, but we got a little recognition.
W: You were a Gator Editorial Assistant.
C: Ah, okay.
W: When you were doing investigative pieces.
C: Yes, okay. That was great fun. We really enjoyed doing that the most.
W: What about your seven or eight part series on comparing situations at UF to
other college campuses around the country? Did you receive any feedback from
C: Your research is wonderful, I don't even remember doing that. It couldn't have
been that many other universities because at that time Florida had three. It had
UF, Florida State, and Florida A&M, it was just about to get into University of
South Florida as I was graduating, but it did not exist yet.
W: But I have information that you explored the quality of institutions nationwide. I
think the University of Texas was one of them. Some of the things you covered
were student apathy, large enrollment issues, and faculty disillusionment.
C: Gosh, the things that concern me today as I'm about to retire. Surprise, surprise.
W: Back onto the Alligator. You worked on and off until graduation. Some times
you're not listed in the masthead, is that because you were doing correspondent
C: Right. Well, some of it was, I interned at the Miami Herald the summer between
my junior and senior years. I also did not work the Alligator for a time, I believe,
when Dan Hackel became the editor. There were student politics involved, or
board politics involved, in the selection of the editor, and I think I decided that
was not anything I needed or wanted to get involved in. It probably also had to do
with my folks saying, "I think you're grades could be better." [I said,] "Okay, I'll
see what I can do to bring them up." So I took a little hiatus from the Alligator.
There was also a part of that time during my junior year when I worked for the
University News Bureau, when Allen Skaggs was the director. I think that my
friends on the Alligator, particularly Joe Thomas and Jim McGuirk and a guy
named Ken Finkel, who worked on the copy desk, tried to shame me into
[coming back]. They said I was being a play-for-pay girl and was doing PR [public
relations work]. So it worked and I quickly was back on the Alligator, and that's
when I really got involved. They probably said, "We'll make you a senior editor,
an editorial position, what would you like to do?" That's when Harry and I
dreamed up the team reporting thing.
W: You mentioned that your parents, when you had lower grades while working at
the Alligator, influenced you to leave for awhile. What did they think upon
graduation as far as your work at the Alligator?
C: My mother was always supportive in that she wanted me to excel in what I did
best. My dad was a Southerner who had set ideas about what women in that
period did and didn't do. My politics were certainly far more liberal than his. It was
getting to be a volatile time. We certainly did not agree in terms of race relations,
for example. I don't ever remember a family conference to sit around the table
and talk seriously other than one time during my senior year in high school when
the then Board of Control, which I always thought was a fabulous title for running
the colleges and universities in the state of Florida, sent out a questionnaire to
the parents of high school seniors. This would have been in 1956, or maybe late
1955. [It was] about, essentially, desegregation questions. They were, I think,
testing the waters to see, "What's the effect going to be? Are there going to be
students who will not come to a state university if it's desegregated?" My father
was really genuinely disturbed about my answers because, "That's where I want
to go to school and why is this an issue?" One of the questions he asked me
was, "When you get to the university, if you walked into the dorm room," I had
been assigned to Broward Hall, "and found out that your roommate was black,"
but he didn't say, 'black', he said, 'nigra,' "what would you do?" I said, "Well, I
would look at her and say, 'Which bed is mine?'" I thought he was just going to
choke to death right then and there, but that's how I felt.
As it turned out when we got here, and they drove me up from Lakeland and we
had all our bags and stuff in the station wagon, when we got to the room, my
roommate was Jewish. She was an older student from Miami. What I didn't know
for some time, and I don't know how I learned this, was that he was so upset that
he wrote a letter or made a phone call after he got back home to the dean of
women. She was Dean Marna Brady. She had been in the military [and was] a
very, very tough gal. She apparently put him in his place. I heard this story from
my mother. She said, "University policy is, no changes in roommates or room
assignments the first six weeks, but the request has to be made by the student,
not the parent." Luckily, I never heard that story. I would have just been mortified.
I certainly would have just died if she had ever found out. As it turned out, it was
a wonderful assignment. She had a relationship with a faculty member and she
was never in the room. She was never there, so I had a room to myself,
essentially, as a freshman, which I loved a great deal.
W: Was there a large Jewish influence in the journalism school or the Alligator at this
C: I wouldn't say, certainly, in the college. Certainly, there were on the staff. I don't
know if it was an out-of-balance relationship, but you've got to remember I came
here from conservative, WASPy [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] Polk County,
central Florida. I had, one of my best friends that I think was either valedictorian
or salutatorian of my class in high school, Gail Singer, who actually did come up
here to school. I had another wonderful Jewish friend from junior high school,
Korina Greenbaum. There was never an issue for me other than they did not go
to First Methodist Church in Lakeland like I did. There were lots of things about
synagogue and Friday night services, but I just saw it as more of a historical
issue and biblical issues. On campus, some of the people I admired the most in
my classes, who probably were twice as smart as I was, happened to be Jewish,
so I always thought I could learn a lot from them. On the Alligator itself, I really
don't remember. Kenn Finkel, who worked on the copy desk, was Jewish.
W: You also were here during a time when integration for UF grad school was just
W: How did the Alligator react to that situation?
C: Well, of course we were very supportive of equal rights. This was the period in
which integration took place first in the law school, so we were all more geared to
the undergraduate program. But the Alligator was very alert to any pressures that
would come onto the campus onto the administration, and we wanted to be very
clear that the outside community wanted opposition to rise up on the campus,
and it didn't. So, of course, that was very pleasing to us that this was
accomplished. It set us apart, I think. We felt it was very important that we were
not the University of Alabama and we were not the University of Mississippi. That
would be what I remember the most, that we were far more liberal and tolerant
than other schools of state universities, certainly in the southeast.
W: Do you think it was the school as a whole or the Alligator representation itself?
C: That's a good question. I guess I would like to think that we represented the
general consensus of the student body. I'm sure that you probably would not find
the same sentiment expressed say, in the news room of the Alligator, that you
would find at Kappa Alpha fraternity. I think that's a fair statement. In no way
would I say it was universal, but the fact is it was an all-white Southern university.
I had gone to an all-white high school, and in many ways you were just kind of in
this little white cocoon, non-recognition, unless it was issues of things taking
place. But we usually felt, "Well, those are things that happen in Jackson,
Mississippi, those are things that happen at the University of Alabama."
W: As far as the gender, were women at the Alligator given the same opportunities
as men as far as advancement?
C: For the most part of the Alligator, yes, out in the real world, no. I had great
opportunity when I interned in the summer of 1959 or 1960, between my junior
and senior years. I went to the West Palm Beach Bureau of the Miami Herald
and got to cover everything, news, police, the whole works. When I graduated
the following June, and it may be that this was the only job opening that was
there at the Miami Herald at the time, I went to the Broward bureau in Ft.
Lauderdale on the women's section, which made me crazy. In retrospect, I got
great experience and I had a lot of freedom to do that I would not have had on
the news side, but it was not what I wanted to do. I can remember a confrontation
with the editor of the Tampa Tribune, his name was V.M. "Red"Newton, and he
would come up and speak to classes at the university. Students got tired of
listening to him, so one time I can remember in one of my classes being drafted
to go in and pad the crowd. When he opened it up for questions and answers I
asked what I thought was a very innocuous question. I raised my hand [and
said], "Mr. Newton, what do you think the future for women in journalism is?" He
made some horrible remark about, "Well, certainly there are many fine women on
staff in the women's section." [I said], "Well, no, I meant just in general [as] a
news reporter." He did not think that that [was possible]. He said, "You would
really have to go north for that." I just sort of blurted out, "Well, that's really too
bad, but maybe that explains why the St. Petersburg Times is showing so much
more success over the Tampa Tribune." His ears got so red I really thought they
were going to drop off. He was furious. But I think after that, I don't think they
ever had my class go back and fill up seats when Red Newton would come to
W: As far as our relationships within the staff of the Alligator, what was the
relationship between students and non-students, either the career staff or
C: You know it's funny, I don't remember if there was a career staff or business
side. We kind of did everything, and we were very separate from the business
side. In addition to the politicians not coming in the newsroom, the editors did not
want the advertising salesmen [around], who I guess were students. It's not
nearly as organized and professional, certainly, as Ed Barber has at the Alligator
today. I just do not remember sort of a business side at all.
W: Do you feel the editors' decision to keep politicos and student advertisers out of
the office was a good one?
C: Well, certainly, if they were coming in to influence what went into the coverage.
The other issue was just, they're interfering with your work when you're trying to
get [it] done. There's also a sort of ingrained competition, where you have these
political factions within student government fighting with each other, so you're
sure they were coming in to spy from one faction to find out something from the
other. For the most part it just worked out really well to keep the lines a little more
normal and orderly within the room just to get your work done than to get caught
up in the maelstrom of student politics. The other issue would be ad salesmen
coming in trying to influence you to do a particular story that would benefit an
advertiser. So yeah, it was a good policy.
W: How was the Alligator editor selected during this period?
C: During that period, it would have been the Board of Student Publications.
Students would apply and then the vote would be [held]. Of course, the board
was appointed by the president [of the university]. It was much more controlled
by the university than certainly it is today. The fact was that they got funds from
student government, so it was not totally divorced from influence of student
W: Did you have a specific advisor appointed by the Board to oversee any aspect of
C: That's the other thing I don't remember about the business side of it. I think the
Board pretty much left us, from the editorial side, alone. The Board really had to
answer to the president, certainly, on anything controversial. But more from a
financial side, I mean there, obviously, is somebody keeping all the books about
the advertising and the payroll and those issues. That wasn't any part of the
newsroom operation that I had much contact, or really any contact, with. I'm sure
it was there, but it was irrelevant to my life. I was just this "pure" journalist, "pure"
reporter, that "didn't have to worry about that."
W: Did you have to deal with any student group, administrative group, alumni, or
local administration specifically in your role as a reporter where there might have
C: Yes, I remember I was so proud of how I found out that this was done. I
remember that there were some conservative patriotic groups here and people
involved with groups like that. I can't even remember what the story was about,
but they took issue with and complained all the way past the president's head, I
guess past the governor's head, which at that time would have been Farris
Bryant [Florida governor, 1961-1965]. It went directly to the ultimate power,
Senator George Smathers [U.S. Senator from Florida, 1951-1969]. They were
complaining about the Florida Alligator and the staff, and specifically the stories
that Harry and I had done. I don't even remember what it was about, the stories,
but Smathers sent a letter to the editor of the Alligator and you could tell on the
bottom, this is the day of manual typewriters you understand, and you could see
at the bottom that a blind carbon copy had been sent, also carbon paper. We had
no copying machines in those days. It went to the president of the university, Dr.
Reitz, and he had called the editor in to talk about this. I must have just given him
the letter because Joe [Thomas] showed me the letter and I said, "Something
looks funny," and at the bottom you could tell that a blind copy had been sent.
"Well, who is this?" So we got our little directories out and poked around. I guess
it was some of my earliest days of good fact finding. [We] discovered that [it was]
the name of an attorney in town named Joe Jenkins, who was very conservative
[and] very to the right of Attila the Hun, and another woman who was equally
conservative involved in something like the Daughters of the American
Revolution or something. In an editorial, Joe was able to respond and name them
by name, which of course really made President Reitz unhappy. Those were the
kinds of things we thought was very important, for the student press to take a
stand on what our responsibilities were versus what the administration and the
Board of Student Publications thought our responsibilities were.
W: What do you think the overall administration and President Reitz thought about
the Alligator during this period?
C: I think they thought we made their lives more difficult. We were young and
impressionable and idealistic and didn't understand the problems that they had in
trying to keep us on track because the legislature was very, very proactive and
wanted to micro-manage. [It's] similar to today, very similar to today. There's no
doubt in my mind that the president spent much time on certain occasions,
certain issues, being accountable for what was in the student paper for which he
had no direct [control] other than the appointing the board. I think the legislature
said, "You need to control the student newspaper," and that wasn't going to
W: You never felt that trickle down to you ?
C: Well, we'd have discussions about it, but it was never, "We better ease up
because President Reitz is upset." If anything, it just encouraged us more
because we felt justice and good were on our side. What can I say? We were
W: Was there any specific faculty member that you turned to?
C: Certainly, it would be Buddy Davis first and foremost. He was influential from my
freshman year on [and] continues to be a mentor to this day. I think I learned to
be a better faculty member [by] following in his footsteps. We are sitting in his old
office. He is truly one of my heroes.
W: Did you ever use confidential sources when you were a reporter for the Alligator?
C: Well, I certainly used confidential sources. I'm sure there were some issues on
the stories that Harry and I did that we probably did not identify some sources. I
cannot remember a specific instance.
W: Discuss your views of freedom of the press and the First Amendment.
C: How much time do we have?
W: I guess in context of that period.
C: I probably became a staunch believer, and it helped me understand the
importance of the First Amendment and freedom of information [and] freedom of
the press, because of the things that were happening at that time, particularly the
repressiveness of the Johns Committee, the legislative investigating committee,
faculty members who lost their jobs because of these witch hunts, and book
burnings. These were just things that will always have a lasting impression on
me, whether it's popular with the general population or not. I know that there
were things that we did at the Alligator that maybe the majority of the students
and faculty would have some issues with. The importance of expressing this
openly and having an open discussion, especially on a college campus, just
became ingrained in me. So that's carried through all my life.
W: When you were a reporter, specifically what areas do you remember covering?
C: My particular interests overall would be government, particularly local
government, county and city. I really liked it all. I loved general assignment
reporting. I particularly liked covering the courts, which probably is in my genes.
My DNA probably knows things about courts. My granddaddy was a lawyer, my
dad was a lawyer, I married a lawyer who become a judge, so it was natural, I
guess, that I just have a special affinity for what goes on in courtrooms. I think it's
unfortunate today that many, many editors don't consider [it more]. They will look
at the general beat area of court coverage as not being productive because it
takes so much time, so I think that's why what we see, read, and hear today
more is the sensational drama. The O.J. Simpson [accused/acquitted of
murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman] trial will
have coverage, heavy coverage, but what we don't see is day to day what's
going on in courtrooms all around the country. I think that's too bad because
there's such drama and human interest and impact on our lives that we don't see
in nearly the detail that we used to, certainly from the 1950s and 1960s when I
was coming up.
W: As a reporter were you allowed to work on longer pieces, or were you expected
to publish an article every time the Alligator appeared?
C: On the Alligator, in the beginning, certainly, it was looking more at shorter
assignments, kind of daily things that the Alligator of today would do. It was not
really until probably that period in my senior year when Harry and I were doing
longer pieces that we had that freedom. But at that time, I had already done my
internship with the Miami Herald, so I was a campus correspondent for the
Herald. I can remember Richard Nixon [U.S. President, 1969-1974] coming, but I
did not get to cover Nixon, who, one of his greatest accomplishments out of the
Gainesville Airport was that the band went out and they took the big drum that
had the biggest boom in Dixie, and Richard Nixon got to bang the drum. John
McDermott, at that time, was the political editor for the Herald, and Big John
came over from Tallahassee and he covered Nixon. I had to cover Pat[ricia]
Nixon, but, hey, it was the Miami Herald, it was a by-line, and they paid very well.
They paid their stringers very well, so I gritted my teeth and covered Pat Nixon.
W: Any other specific incidence that you remember covering during that period, or
court cases when you were on the courts?
C: Well, I don't know that we did that many court cases. We had a law professor
who challenged prohibition for state employees to hold public office.
W: His name was T.B. Jones.
C: Right. We were really pleased with how we actually got that story because at that
time the Gainesville Sun published the Alligator. One of our copy editors saw on
the flats at the Gainesville Sun the first ad that Professor Jones put in the paper
that he was going to run for judge. So we quickly called him up, "We hear this
rumor that you're going to run for judge." "Oh yeah," and he gave us the whole
story. So the Gainesville Sun ran the ad, and the Alligator ran the news story,
page one of course, and it was big. Those would be more the longer kind of
stories that we did.
W: Was there a competition or a rivalry between the Alligator and the Sun?
C: Oh, yes, we thought so. The Sun would never admit that of course. They thought
we were pests [and] they did not want us [there]. Usually, the only Alligator news
staff who went to the Sun would be the editor and managing editor, because they
would really put the paper to bed on Wednesday and Sunday night. I think the
paper came out on Mondays and Thursdays. We weren't crawling around the
newsrooms at all other than at the Alligator. We did like to go down [to the press].
At that time, the Gainesville Sun press was behind a glass down in the old
building downtown. It was always fun. I think the first time we ever ran color
[layouts] may have been that year. It came out God-awful, but it was color. So a
bunch of us from the staff went down that night to watch that press run, and that
was a big excitement.
[End side Al ]
W: What were some of the historical or social events or movements that were going
on during your period here on campus? We talked a bit about integration.
C: That would be primarily [it]. We were still up to 1960. We still had not had the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 when things truly were [changing]. [There was] sort of a
little passage of time. I graduated in 1960, was at the Herald about a year and a
half, and had gotten married and went over to the Sarasota paper and had
worked for the St. Pete[rsburg] Times. In that period of time it got hot and heavy
into civil rights. I always like to tell my students I went from covering wade-ins, if
you can believe it, in Sarasota. The big thing on Sundays [there] was groups of
black protesters going to the beach where you were supposed to be able to
delineate, in the Gulf of Mexico on the same white sand beach, where the white
beach began and the black beach ended. The black group would cross over that
imaginary line and wade into the imaginary line in the Gulf of Mexico. These were
the kinds of protests that we were covering as a regular occasion in Sarasota
County. I came up here the summer of 1963, and this was really big time, a hot
bed [for] protest activities at drug store lunch counters, Woolworth's lunch
counters, and the Florida Theater. [The protest activities] escalated into
[throwing] fire bombs. [These were] major demonstrations. During these Alligator
years, this was just a precursor to what was to come, so there's not that much
other than the law school desegregation. They sent highway patrol troopers. The
governor had, I'm sure, I believe I remember correctly, that the National Guard
was on alert.
We always thought it disappointed the administration and state officials, that
things went on as usual at the University of Florida, both undergraduate school
and the law school. In a way, I think [it was] far more moderate during the years I
was at the Alligator up to 1960. It was really that period of great turn around,
certainly in the Gainesville community, where the escalation was pretty dramatic.
Then of course [it] immediately went into Vietnam [and] the women's movement.
I kind of made a quick transition, and then I was no longer the student journalist
when I was at the Gainesville Sun [and] when I was at the Tampa Tribune here.
[There was] lots and lots of protest activity in a short period of time. It was very
concentrated in Gainesville.
W: During your time here as a student, there were a number of campus riots.
C: Yes, but it wasn't about anything more significant than lingerie. No, actually I take
it back, there were two issues. One was lingerie, the panty raids, and the other
was over beer. The beer raids were very big, and of course, that was a big issue.
During those times, often one of the big events would be the burning of
Alligators. Some would take that opportunity, if you want to put it that way, to take
all the copies of the Alligator out of the boxes and make bonfires. Usually, a good
place to do this would be over in front of the wing in Broward Hall. I can
remember my dad calling. My dad was very protective. We'd have a phone at
one end of the hall and it would kind of echo so you would hear things that were
going on outside. I remember him asking me one time, "What is that noise?" I
said, "Oh, daddy, that's just a panty raid." He said, "What?" "Oh, this happens all
the time." But there would be burning of Alligators. I mean that was just sort of
convenient. I don't think there was any philosophical purpose during a panty raid
to burn, it was just ammunition, it was there, [and] it sort of made the event more
About beer I'm sure it was not an issue because there's no question the Alligator
was in favor of getting rid of the wet on the wet/dry issue. There were times
during the political campaigns, however, [that they burned them]. This would
happen when the opposition parties would find out who was and wasn't going to
be endorsed, if the right person wasn't being endorsed, they would steal the
papers thinking this was going to turn the election around.
W: Was it mass stealing or just out of the stands?
C: I think it was, out of my recollection, wherever they could find papers.
W: What do you think the general student body felt about the Alligator during that
C: I think they think probably the same thing students today think, that the Alligator,
sort of, is more liberal than the general student population. The Greeks, sororities
and fraternities, I think have always felt, and always will feel, that the Alligator as
a general organization is anti-Greek. There's no question in my mind that that's
true because I was probably one of the few members of the staff who was in a
sorority. That was always a subject of great ridicule, so of course it made it more
important to me. I didn't even care about the sorority. Early on it was good.
Eventually, it was good to be able to use the Alligator to say I really need to live
off campus, not in the sorority house, because I had all these important things to
do with the Alligator. We had curfews then and I needed to be able to be out past
curfew. I would use the sorority for the things the Alligatorwanted me to do that I
didn't want to do. I would say, "Well, I've got this really important sorority activity."
It was a great ping-pong game to do that back and forth. But probably those are
the areas where there is the most difference within the student body. Certainly,
the student politicians felt that the Alligator wanted to influence student
government more than they felt the student paper should.
W: Did you ever take any heat from your sorority sisters from anything printed in the
C: No. What I remember more is the opposite, that I really hated rush so much
because it was so superficial and awful, that I would get excused from things like
that, which you never really were supposed to get excused from. And chapter
meetings. God forbid you should miss chapter meetings. I would be so irascible
at the meetings, they would rather have me be at the Alligator than to be at the
meetings. So that worked out very well.
W: Were female students the only ones subject to curfew at this period?
C: I think so. Almost no one, young women, lived off campus. One of my friends in
the sorority from Tallahassee, her dad worked for the Board of Control. [She], Pat
[Hendricks], quit the sorority. You didn't do that, you didn't give back your pin,
[but] she did that. Her dad got a dispensation for me because of my important
position at the Alligator, and then I would be living with his daughter. We lived in
this little tiny hole in the wall place, but, boy, we were off campus and it was
W: Were you within walking distance?
C: Yes, we were over in the student ghetto, about Fifth Avenue. It was okay with our
parents, sort of, because our landlady was the widow of a Methodist minister and
they were sure that Mrs. Rooks would look out for us, which she sort of did and
W: What was the [amount of] time that you donated to the Alligator on a weekly
basis? How much time do you think you spent working on stories [or] helping out
C: I will say not nearly as much as today's students. Obviously, it coming out twice a
week, I think, made life as a college student much more manageable. I have
great respect for my students who are active at the Alligator and who also are
able to keep their grades up and be good all around college students. It would be
hard to say. I think it would vary probably ten to fifteen hours a week.
W: Could you describe for me a typical day when the paper was being produced
what you would do and what other staff members would do as far as production
C: Yes. It would be split up for the most part. Again, it's very different when you
come out twice a week. [There's] a lot more time to develop stories, but also I'm
sure we procrastinated a great deal, so there would be a flurry of activity before
the paper would come out the night before. Of course, we used manual
typewriters in the office. I eventually got to the point where I really liked being
able to just work at home and do a lot more of my writing [there], and then take
the stories in, work with the editors, and then do any rewriting, revisions, editing,
[and] that kind of stuff when I got there. I thought that used my time better. I think
there's just always a lot more pressure on the people then who are dealing with
that next stage, to be the copy desk, copy editors. In those days you did a lot
more dealing with reading final proof, which you don't do much of at all now,
which is why we read some bad stuff we see in the paper today. [It was] much
more time-consuming than today with a computer system, I think. But the heavy
burden, in terms of time, clearly was [for the] editor and managing editor.
W: What was the quality of the equipment like that the Alligator had?
C: In that time, we used manual typewriters and sort of beat-up, ratty old desks
down in the basement of the Union. I think we had a lot of castoff stuff, which
was okay because that was what a newsroom ought to be like. Today it's
carpeted and quiet. But we had no wire service, we had no wire, so it was really
what the reporters and the photographers put all together to put around the ads.
[It's] both similar and dissimilar to today.
W: Did the newspaper win any awards while you were working there?
C: It seemed like there was some category to be an all-American collegiate award.
W: I've seen that tag in the....
C: Yes, and that's about all I remember. I don't remember that there was ever any
recognition for any specific staff member or editorial writer or photographer for
meritorious works similar to today when we have the Hearst competition, for
W: Your senior year you won the Elmer J. Emig Award.
C: Yes. Elmer Emig may have been the first dean in the college [of journalism]. We
didn't really have deans and we didn't have a college. We were still maybe even
part of the liberal arts [college]. Rae Weimer, of course, was the first professional
to come in as director of the school of journalism just before I came as an
undergrad student. The organizations in the college in the school were very
important for recognizing students, so at that time there was a professional
organization called Theta Sigma Phi for women [and] there was Sigma Delta Chi
for men, which of course made me grind my teeth. It was not until I became a
grad student, which was the first year that women were allowed to become
members of Sigma Delta Chi, that I then became a member Sigma Delta Chi. It
was important to me that, professionally, men and women who are in the same
newsroom should have equal access. But a lot of the things that I did my junior
and senior year that got a different part of the awards, and the Emig Award had
to do with what I did at the Alligator, going to the Miami Herald, continuing at the
Miami Herald, and then my first job at the Miami Herald.
W: Did staff hang out or forge strong bonds as far as friendships go?
C: Yes. Look at the fact [that even] now I'm still very close friends with people who
were on the staff. I still get Christmas cards from Claire Cooper, who's out in
Oakland, California, Joe Thomas, and Jim McGuirk in Miami, [and] Harry over in
Jacksonville and Finkel in Miami. We certainly had a lot of parties together. My
marriage in 1960 was not something that my pals at the Alligator were in
agreement with because I was marrying [an] outsider, who was a landscape
architect major for God's sake. They did not like him. The marriage didn't last
very long, so, in retrospect, they may have known something that I didn't know.
W: Were there any other groups that the Alligator staffers had close ties with in that
same respect, or were they more of an insular group?
C: They certainly had close relationships to certain politicians within [the university].
I can see linkages with people within student government, chancellors, say, of
the honor court. Probably people who became movers and shakers. I would think
of Charlie Wells [chief justice, Florida Supreme Court, 1994-present], for
example. I think we all, even in those days, sort of teased and called him
governor. We always thought he could be in politics on some level, and certainly
we learned in 2000, when he was Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, the
role in the presidential election certainly propelled him. Joe Thomas, for example,
became a political consultant and worked in the [Bob]Graham [Florida governor,
1979-1987] administration. [He] went down to Haiti and did a lot of consulting
with USAID [United States Agency for International Development]. A lot of the
connections that you make from the Alligator, to student government, as student
leaders, [and] on to Tallahassee is an interesting network that goes throughout
W: Did you reap benefits from that throughout your life?
C: Oh, yes. I think you're always able [to do so especially] when you go anywhere in
Florida, someone will be, at a period in your life journalistically, usually some
linkage back to the University of Florida. For me, then, it would go back to the
W: Did any of the staffers date one another during this period?
C: Oh, yes. Part of that is probably sort of why doctors marry nurses. Who else do
you see? You spend a lot of time at the Alligator. But yes, [there were] a lot of
romances, some of which probably turned into marriages. [Jim Moorehead, for
example, married Sharon Kelley.]
W: What do you feel you've gained from your experiences at the Alligator?
C: Well, certainly, self-confidence [and] the experience. The way your writing
improves is you write, you write, and then you write some more. Being able to
interview and have direct access to the leadership within the university. Think of
all the people who come to the university. The Nixon thing [visit] would be an
example. [I had the opportunity of] covering major speeches [by governors,
senators, and candidates]. Of course, a lot of the experience that I got, that
carried through with the Miami Herald, was to be able to cover major news
events during that senior year after I did my internship. That kept me evolving as
a reporter [and] as a journalist.
W: Do you think your Alligatorwork got you the work at the Miami Herald initially?
C: Sure. Absolutely. No question. That's what I tell my students today is [that] this
may sound like heresy, but when the editors come in and interview or
interviewers come in about internships, about jobs, they do not ask me about
your grades. They're going to want to see your clips and they're going to want to
know from me how do I evaluate you as someone to be able to step right in and
be a good intern, [to] step right in for your first job. I talk to them about, "What
have you done on the Alligator [and] what am I seeing you do." I can talk about
things that maybe they did for me in the classroom, but it's really hands on
application that we comment the most about. Most of the time it will be whatever
they've done at the Alligator.
W: Do you feel gaining your journalism degree was also important? Do you think if
you had majored in something else and worked at the Alligator you would have
had a different experience?
C: I'm not sure because of the time I was there, and I think to some degree it's still
true. Our program is very geared toward a good solid liberal arts education. Only
about a fourth of the courses that you take for us in this journalism program are
what you would call skills/ journalism directed classes. I think it's that
combination of what I got that was extra from the journalism program that I would
not have gotten [otherwise]. I had an English professor who just hounded me to
major in English. It would have been so easy to do and I would have loved it,
[but] I still would have gone to the Alligator. What I would not have had if I had
done that was the strong professional support of Buddy Davis, Hugh
Cunningham, John Webb, Rae Weimer, or John Paul Jones. Much in our
business has to do with networking, and it's people who hear of job openings or
hear of something and they will say, "Well, I had this student." To me, I really got
the best of each because I had a strong liberal arts background that tied into a
professional program with the best pros in the state, in terms of journalism
education, [being] on our faculty. Now some of these are people who would not
be hired today, I would not be hired today, because we didn't have Ph.D.'s. Rae
Weimer, the former dean, the deceased dean now, had no Ph.D. He didn't have
a bachelor's degree. Buddy Davis had a master's, as did Hugh Cunningham, but
these are the men who had distinguished themselves in the newspaper business.
John Paul Jones did have a doctorate. John Webb, who was the first associate
dean, did not have it. I'm not sure whether he had a master's or not. We really
had a core program, at that period, that was strongly professional. The graduate
program was not emphasized at all. It was very small. I can almost remember
maybe three grad students. Martha Webb was one, who happened to be from my
hometown in Lakeland. Al Alsobrook went through the graduate program. We
had very, very few Ph.D.'s at all on the faculty. Harry Griggs was one. But it's
very different now, in terms of the journalism school.
W: Speaking of faculty, you returned in 1968 as a UF faculty member or graduate
C: As a grad assistant, right.
W: When did you first start instructing?
C: My son was about three months old and I had gotten very bored. When I was at
the Gainesville Sun in the early 1960s, Harry Griggs kept after me. He said, "Just
take one graduate class." I thought, "Gee, doing diapers and this is not occupying
my time well." So I did. I signed up for one graduate class and then had to take
the GRE [Graduate Record Exam]. I had class that one semester and then,
before the next semester, Rae Weimer and Buddy Davis called me in and said,
"Buddy needs some help with reporting labs, he's got too heavy a load, how
would you like to teach?" Now, I never thought that's what I would want to do. I
was just doing that [graduate school] to kill time.
W: During your time here, how have you seen the Alligator change? I guess the first
period I'd be interested in would be civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the
Alligator's independence. What role did you play as a faculty member in some of
that, and how did the paper change from your time as a student to your time as a
C: It was an interesting transition time, as I've said, because you're coming from the
volatile issues that had already sort of laid the foundation starting with civil rights
and the women's movement. At the same time I'm a graduate student, and
reporters are very strictly trained to observe, not [to] participate, and that very
much stayed with me. So as a faculty member, as a grad assistant, and then
when I came on the faculty full time after I got my degree, it was then teaching
students how to cover the protests in the middle of the Plaza of the Americas [at
the University of Florida]. By having students [covering events live], they were
victims of tear gas. Students who were trying to cover an event would get caught
in the crossfire and get picked up and hauled in school buses down to the jail,
and you wouldn't know for a couple of days where they were.
During that time, I think the Alligator really grew more mature. Of course, in that
period, you had had the real battle over the abortion rights issue. It's very funny.
Ron Sachs really didn't want to publish an editorial or stories endorsing abortion.
All Ronnie really wanted to publish was information about where in [what] states,
for example New York state, abortion was legal [and] where students could get
information. That was the key story that launched the battle with the Board of
Student Publications [and] with President [Stephen] O'Connell [1963-1973]. This
was when Ron Sachs was not even one of my students. Sometimes I still don't
understand how late one night Ron and the president of student body, and a
bunch of Blue Key politicos, and the key Alligator staff ended up in my living
room, and they were talking about the printer in Ocala. At this time, the paper
[was] being printed in Ocala, and the printer had been warned by somebody from
the Board of Student Publications that this would be illegal, this would be a
violation of Florida statute to publish abortion information since abortion was
illegal in Florida. So what the decision that was made in my living room close to
midnight that night was, they would leave an empty hole on the front page, and
then in the editorial they would explain the censorship issues.
As a First Amendment issue, there was no question in my mind that they were
right, and I had to support them, which for a young, untenured member of the
faculty was probably a nutty thing for me to tackle. But they were right. I
remember warning them that if they expected the administration to roll over, [they
wouldn't]. I can remember saying, "Ron, listen, the president of the university is a
Catholic, the state attorney is a Catholic, and the president of the university used
to be the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. [You need to] look at the
legal issues, not just the moral issues within themselves. You're talking about an
abortion question, they are not going to brush this off. Here's a dime, use this
when you need to call a lawyer." Now, better than that, at that time my kids' dad,
now my ex-husband, was upstairs. I said, "If you want to talk to a lawyer right
now, for free, I will go and wake Chuck up to come down and talk." So he talked
to them and said, "I agree, this is what's likely to happen." As it turned out, he did
represent Ron [Benjamin] in the challenge that Judge tench overturned the
To me that was part of the yeast of the growing of the Alligator that leads to this
day where they challenged on the Dale Earnhardt [stock car racer killed during a
car race] photographs. In a lot of ways, the Alligator remains a kind of gutsy,
feisty defender of the First Amendment. It doesn't say that the First Amendment
is for the real world [and] not for collegiate journalism, and I think that's what truly
great about the Alligator.
W: Have there been other times when you've been specifically involved in advising
students? Is this something that's gone on throughout the years?
C: I think when you're on the faculty, that's just what you do. There have been
issues about presidential searches. Usually, when we talk or I get an email or get
a phone call or they come over, it will be something that's repressive that the
administration is trying to pull off. You become a sounding board, and I have no
problem with that role at all. I think that's part of my job. I know there are times
when it makes it uncomfortable for the administration at the college, that some of
us think that's our job. They have to answer to presidents of the university who
would just rather [say], "Can't you keep them quiet."
W: What roles have you played specifically since your time as a student for the
Alligator? I know during one period in the 1980s you wrote critiques. What did
C: Right. [It was] Dr. John Roosenraad and I. John, for many years, taught editing,
[but] he's in administration now. We would go over every other week [to critique
the paper]. We would read the paper every day and then we would go over [it].
He would talk about the layout, design, and photos, the general layout [and]
editing issues. I would talk about the writing. We did that for quite some time. We
always made sure we went over there [and that] we didn't have them come over
here, again emphasizing this is your turf and thank you for inviting us to come
over. If we had them come over here, we felt it would be seen just as an
extension of the professor/student relationship and [that] "This is our kingdom
and it's right because we say it's right." It was a much more professional collegial
In the same way we would talk about the Hearst Writing Competition with them. If
there were things that we could do to give them ideas, yes, [we would], but this
was really theirs to win or lose. We would give them advice and critique things for
them. To an extent, we do that today. We have a committee within the college
that does the judging. [It's] somewhat of a disappointment to me that our
reputation for [the competition has gone down since] the 1970s when first Hugh
Cunningham was chairman of the local Hearst Committee, and then I did it for
many years. We had, overall, one of the best, if not the best, national records in
the writing competition, and that's not been so for probably the past eight to ten
years. What's taking its place is photojournalism. As proud as I am of that,
because it's part of our program, I'd really like to see us back up at the top. Part
of the problem, I think, for the Alligator is that when it went to the tabloid format, it
makes it a lot more difficult to develop the in-depth style story that's going to win
a national writing competition. But I miss that, I miss that a lot.
W: When did that take place?
C: In the late 1960s through the 1970s through the mid-1980s. I mean, we were
really king of the mountain.
W: I mean the tabloid switch.
C: Oh, the tabloid switch? Hmm, gosh. It's been some time, but I think there's a
direct correlation. Part of it was economics. Some of it has to do with the
availability of the printing [and] the facilities at the [Gainesville]Sun. It was easier,
I think, when the Sun was an afternoon paper, with the Alligator coming out in the
morning. You didn't have the crunch at press time. Now, it's trickier.
W: What other changes have you seen in the Alligator over the past forty years?
C: Well, certainly, there's much more opportunity for women on the staff. You have
a far more professional organization with the independence of the paper. It
stands on its own two feet. in terms of finances. Barber has been the absolute
perfect leader there from a business perspective. But Ed [Barber, General
Manager] does more than just be a good businessman. Ed probably is the
walking encyclopedia, in terms of knowledge of the key staff on the paper. I think
he's a very quiet but positive influence in the newsroom, although I think he's
very careful to have a separation between the business side and the editorial
W: Any other key changes either positively or negatively that you see? Content-
C: Well, content-wise, I think it's fluffy most of the time. I was laughing with my
students last night in class. They have the entertainment section that comes out
on Thursday called Detours that is just absolutely oatmeal, in terms of content.
It's silly, it's sophomoric. I guess the only sort of nice description I give it to my
students is [that] I consider it primarily junior high journalism. It's undisciplined, "I
can use four letter words in print, so there." If they would exert as much energy
into things that are of significance to today's college student, they might be
winning the Hearst contest again.
W: Why do only a minority of journalism students work for the Alligator? Was that
true in your time as a student?
C: Yes. Good question. I think part of the answer is, we're always a little startled
when Dr. Julie Dodd gives us some data, when she will question the beginning
students in the introductory] level courses about what their career plans are. You
would think it would have something to do with something in communications,
right? Not true, not true. We really see ourselves, the majority of the faculty, as a
strong professional college, particularly in the undergraduate program.
The fact is, many of our students have no plans whatsoever to go into journalism
careers. Many of the students, and we all have felt really it is more the public
relations students than [those] any other programs, really are here because they
want to go to law school. So we've always joked that PR is the easy route to law
school. I do have to say, it does make me sad to write letters of recommendation
for law school for some of my very best students. I'll say that in the letter, "It
pains me a great deal to write this letter because I really want our best and
brightest." I mean look around Florida right now. The people that are in high
editor positions are Florida grads. I'm not sure that ten years from now, fifteen
years from now, that is necessarily going to be the case. I hope it is, but our
students have a lot more choices now [with] the electronic publishing, dot comes.
There are other things that are of far greater interest. I do think many students
see low pay as an issue, and they're right. [They look at the] lifestyle. Most good
newspapers, the majority of newspapers, are AM's [morning editions] so that
means your hours are ungodly. It's either got to be something in your gut or in
your bloodstream, and some of them, I think, look at the Alligator and say, "That's
not the path I want to take." Realistically, I am not going to gild the lily for them
and say it's going to be easy to be a woman and try to have a career and a family
and a real life simultaneously, because it's not. But if you want it badly enough, I
know plenty of people who have done it and loved their life.
W: Does anything differentiate your students who work for the Alligator and those
who don't? Do they have certain characteristics?
C: Well, they're certainly cocky and more sure of themselves to some level. Often,
they are terrible students in the classroom, not because of ability, but because of
their absence. You'll see them in the very beginning, you see them at the very
end, and at midterm time. This is a problem for some students, if they can't
balance [everything]. We've got a lot of very good journalism students who never
got admitted to the college because they spent more time at the Alligator than
they did in class. That's a waste because these are students who could have
gone on balanced and be tomorrow's editors or key staff. They usually are more
creative. They're better [as] self-starters, and that may be a confidence issue. But
if they're in there practicing their craft every day, or most every day, it's going to
show in the work they do in the classroom.
W: The Alligator has had a number of competitors through the years, campus
newspapers and the like. First, do you remember any of them, any specific ones,
and second, what's your opinion of those?
C: Well, I think most of them popped up in a reactive way. The one that was the
most successful was really an anti-Gainesville Sun publication, Moon. It survived
for quite some time. I'm sad that it's gone because I could often send students
[over there]. You asked about what are the down sides of the Alligator, some
students really get a bad taste in their mouth when they go over to the Alligator
and they feel they're kicked around [and] treated bad. There is an attitude at the
Alligator that essentially establishes, "I had to come up the ladder the hard way
[and] you will too." There are just some students who say, "I don't like that
attitude and I don't need that." It was always nice to be able to say, "Well, why
don't you go over to Moon and get some experience there.
That last paper that was here that folded last year, Gator Times, that we had a
battle with in the college because they chose a name and they wanted to be
Orange and Blue. Luckily, we had gotten the paperwork done and had the
copyright so that the college's magazine-class publication, that's the Orange and
Blue, put a stop to that. So we had a sort of adversarial relationship. Plus, it was
just a lousy, lousy publication. But it was essentially coming in to appeal to the
Greeks [fraternities and sororities] and, politically, to be a PR arm, a house organ
of student government. We had real problems over here on the faculty with how
much responsibility we had to our students if we would send them over to get
some experience and get some publication under their belt because they'd
publish anything. That was students who do that. It was kind of a front opposition
newspaper that, from a faculty perspective, was troublesome because it did not
have the standards of the Alligator by any stretch of the imagination. It was
difficult and we were not sad to see it go.
W: Do you think the student's perception of the paper has changed over time? Just
your regular, run-of-the-mill UF student.
C: No. I think you will see students reading the Alligator today. It's very accessible
[and] it's free. I don't think they see the Alligator today as being the loyal
opposition to the university administration that it has been seen [as] in the past,
for example, when Terry Wood was editor and challenged a secret search of the
dean's position at the law school. I think [that] was a very significant point in the
history of the Alligator.
[End side A2]
C: I think where at it has not changed in any way, I think the Alligator is seen by student
government as being anti- SG [student government], [and] equally anti-Greeks by the
Greeks [fraternities and sororities].
W: Was that the attitude always there?
C: Yes, I think it's that relationship that says the press out in the real world or within the
campus world has a responsibility, in a sense a muckraking-type responsibility, to be the
watch dog. I think the Alligator has always had a very serious goal of "This is our
important job," and it certainly is. When there are wrongs to be righted, the Alligator, in
the past, has said, "We will be there." I don't see that much effort exerted on a regular
basis. I think it's periodic or spasmodic within the Alligator now. I don't think they
cover, for example, how student government spends its money. It's not its money, it's the
student's money. I talk to the students about this sometimes. You know, most of the
Alligator kids come through my classes. I think SG, Florida Blue Key, [and] the
leadership within the student government echelon, see the Alligator as not being fair, not
being objective, and looking for negative things to report.
I think the students try to address the issue of diversity on the staff. If you ask white
students, African American students, or Hispanic students, are they excluded at the
Alligator, I don't think you see that within in the newsroom, for example. [If you] look at
the staff, I think it's as representative as any other newsroom in the real world out there.
But I don't know the answer to that. I think there are efforts made to recruit minority
members to the staff, but I think it's a pretty all-white set of faces when you walk into the
newsroom. I think that might be an area where you will find some students say[ing], "We
really don't have access." There is a new Hispanic newspaper that has opened, that has
begun publishing in Gainesville. I haven't seen it. I think there is an undercurrent within
elements of the community that feel the press is exclusive rather than being inclusive,
and I think that also probably applies on the campus to the student paper. I don't know
whether it's true or untrue, but I think it's an issue.
W: Should the Alligator's role be that of a muckraker, or what other things should the
Alligator do for the university? What should its role be on campus?
C: First and foremost, as a student publication of the University of Florida, I think it ought
to report to students of the university. What's happened? What's going on? So in that
sense I think it ought to cover student government and the student activities and
organizations and the administration. I guess I get a little bummed, and we talk about it
among ourselves in the faculty in the hallways, sometimes I think they try more to cover
what's going on in Gainesville city government, sometimes even school board things,
county government, [and] the police beat, to the exclusion of very significant things
going on on campus. Like with student government, where did all the money go when
student government remodeled their offices? What did they spend? Then, you'll see
photographs that the kids have taken maybe when they've been on spring break in South
Florida with no linkage to the University of Florida at all. Space is precious in a tabloid
newspaper particularly, and it almost looks like, "Well, we've got to fill this hole, bam."
Some of that, I think, is, "Well, is it glamorous going around and finding out what the
Agronomy Club is doing this week?" Every now and then the Agronomy Club may do
something really newsworthy that would make a good story. Certainly, a big beat for the
Alligator is the administration, and that's a plum. I think they could fine tune how they
do county and city [issues] unless it's related to a specific campus issues like annexation
of an area where a lot of students live. I'm not sure that's being covered well at all. Going
to meetings doesn't mean you're covering county or city government with any depth.
W: How has the editorial page changed in the Alligator over the years? What's your opinion
on that section?
C: Well, it's always going to bounce around compared to the traditional editorial page
because you're having a change of editors, sort of like the football team or any of the
sports teams. Any given two-semester period it can be very extreme in the changes. I
think what we see now is representative of students who have never been denied much.
They are, if not affluent, certainly comfortable. They have been told for forever [that]
they are the best and the brightest. When I look at misspelled words on stories, I
challenge that. I thought it was interesting in class last night. One of my students was
talking about her roommate who is about to graduate, [she] doesn't have a clue what she
wants to do, and her parents are saying, "When you graduate, we are cutting up the credit
card that you have had since you were sixteen." She said, "I think my roommate's going
to have a breakdown." That troubles me [and] I wonder about this generation. So in that
context, I think, when I read on the editorial pages of the Alligator, [it] reflects some of
that. It's a soft spot.
W: Has the Alligator influence on students, via editorials or news coverage, changed since
the times of the 1960s and early 1970s through now? How would you say it's changed if
there was any influence at the time?
C: They say in the regular newspaper that readership of the editorial page is, at best, 10-15
percent. I would guess it's less than that for the student paper. I think what tends to get
more readership are the columns, the letters to the editor, guest columns, and particularly
the columnists who have a reputation for speaking out [and] being more aggressive. I
actually haven't read today's Alligator yet, but most days, as carefully as I can, I try to
read the Alligator [and] for the most part I'm looking for my students' stories. I probably
couldn't tell you what the editorial was about. In some instances, I think the student
editors speak more to the faculty than they do to students, in terms of impact on a day-to-
day basis. Certainly, when they get into editorials [such as] endorsements of student
government candidates or an issue that might be before the student senate, the key
student senators, leadership, are reading. But I just don't know that editorials by
themselves [make an impact]. I think it may be a tie between the editorial stance and
aggressive news coverage on issues [that] may have more influence on student
readership, but there's no way I could prove that scientifically.
W: Do you read the Alligator every day?
W: How has error content changed since your time there?
C: I think they probably make the same kind of mistakes that we did, and the faculty in my
day laughed and laughed and clipped out things and read them in class or put them on
their bulletin boards just like we do today. But I also do that with the Gainesville Sun.
Some of it is, my old students writing in the Gainesville Sun, who probably also wrote for
the Alligator, and then wrote in my class. [They] make the same mistakes today that they
W: You worked for a long time at the Hearst Awards. [Are there] any specific Alligator
individuals you can remember writing for Hearst and how well they did through your
C: There was a heyday, there's no question, and David Dahl went on to the St. Pete[rsburg]
Times [and Congressional Quarterly].
W: Are there any specific stories though?
C: I can't remember by student the specific stories, but the Hearst winners were just very
special. [There was] Rich Hirsch, Diane Julin, [and] Randy Bellows, who's now judge
in Virginia. Many of them are in newspaper positions. They tackle stories about abortion,
AIDS, and issues of the poor. I think David Dahl did one of the finest pieces where he
tracked down a former Gator football player who came here from a migrant family in
south Florida, played out his days, and did not get his degree. David tracked him back
down in south Florida picking oranges. That's what I would like to see in the Alligator
today. You know it still happens. There's just so much they could be doing. With any
luck it'll come back around.
We're starting to see protests about peace. I had a student last night [who brought it up].
They're writing stories and they were talking about their story ideas for next week. One
of the guys in the class said he had been to the peace protest in Washington, and my
students were very interested in that. One of the girls said, "Oh, I wish you would really
write about that, tell us what it's like, maybe write it like journall" She said, "I've never
been to a protest rally and I want to know what happens." So that gives me hope, because
there are students here questioning and challenging, and with any luck they're not all
registered Republican and self-satisfied. I've got great, great hopes.
W: Do any of your older students who have worked at the Alligator come back and visit
C: Oh, yes, yes. One of the great things about e-mail is that it just comes out of the ether. I
get a lot of communication, Christmas cards, [and] just notes. Any time I go to another
community or I'm in a newspaper, sometimes I do consulting, it [the news room] will be
full of my old students, and that's very cool. As I said, I got a call yesterday from a
former editor of the Alligator, Josh Weinstein, just touching base. I said, "Well, if it
makes you feel any better, I know it's horrible up there, it's going to be below nineteen
[degrees Farenheit] in Gainesville on Friday." [He says,] "Oh, that's such good news."
You just get that a lot. Sometimes it will go for a long stretch and a lot of times you'll get
this, "You probably don't remember me, but...." The last professional summer I did, I
went to the Dallas paper [and ran into several UF graduates]. Most of my other
professional internships have been with Florida papers, St. Pete[rsburg], Miami, Cocoa
[Beach], the Florida Today in Melbourne, Ocala, and sometimes I will not remember the
students and they have to remind me, put a name and a face together. I was amazed in
Dallas [at] sort of the grapevine. That's one of the things I think the newspaper business
does a lot of, but certainly the University of Florida, just by being the University of
Florida, having this enormous network. When I retire in June, probably what I'll miss the
most is that networking with the current students. My little pot of resources will begin to
dwindle if I don't continue doing any teaching at all.
W: Is there anything else that we haven't touched upon that you'd like to talk about?
C: No, I think we've done very well, very thorough, great questions.
W: Thank you very much, Professor Chance.