The Independent Florida Alligator

Coordinates: 29°39′06″N 82°20′11″W / 29.6518°N 82.3363°W / 29.6518; -82.3363
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Independent Florida Alligator
TypeStudent newspaper
Owner(s)Campus Communications Inc.
PublisherCampus Communications, Inc.
General managerShaun O'Connor[1]
1971 (as independent paper)
HeadquartersGainesville, Florida
Former offices on University Avenue, 2008

The Independent Florida Alligator is the student newspaper of the University of Florida. The Alligator is one of the largest student-run newspapers in the United States, with a circulation of 14,000 and readership of more than 21,000.[2] It is an affiliate of UWIRE,[3] which distributes and promotes its content to their network.

The paper prints every Monday during the spring, summer, and fall semesters. The Alligator has been financially and editorially independent from the university since 1973. The Alligator has been owned by non-profit, student-controlled 501(c)(3) Campus Communications Inc. since its independence. Students from UF and Santa Fe College, also located in the city of Gainesville, Florida, are allowed to work at the paper. Only college students are allowed to work in the editorial department or be advertising representatives or interns.[4]

The Alligator is distributed free on campus and around Gainesville and contains a mix of campus and local news coverage, as well as national and international stories from wire services. It also contains a sports and entertainment sections, the latter of which, known as "The Avenue". The Alligator prints on 11 x 14 inch paper, somewhat smaller than a tabloid size, closer in size to the compact format of The Times of London and the Chicago Sun-Times.


Early history[edit]

The Alligator began as an independent student-run newspaper called The University News on October 19, 1906. The paper came together in time to report on the University of Florida's opening ceremony in its new permanent home in Gainesville. Much of the first issue was devoted to reprinting word-for-word the farewell speech given by then-Florida Governor Napoleon B. Broward.

A 1922 issue of the Florida Alligator.

The Alligator remained independent until 1912, when it became part of the university and was renamed the Florida Alligator after the university's mascot, the Florida Gators.

For the next six decades, the university's Office of Student Publications supervised the paper. The office was also responsible for the university's Seminole yearbook (later renamed The Tower), Florida Magazine, the Orange Peel humor magazine, and other recurring publications. Alligator staffers often worked on several of these at the same time. (None of the other publications still exist.) The Alligator also had a radio news show on campus station WRUF for many years.

Until the 1950s, the university's student body selected the editor-in-chief in campus-wide elections, similar to student government. Candidates slated to political parties, published campaign ads, and debated each other not unlike today. The editor was roughly on the same level of prestige as the student body president, and various fraternities controlled the newspaper at one time or other.

By the early 1960s, the rapid post-World War II growth of the university, which had started with the G.I. Bill and continued with the decision to admit women in 1947 and to admit blacks in 1958 caused The Alligator to grow. The newspaper printed in broadsheet until 1962 (except during World War II, when paper was in short supply). In 1962, the paper switched to the smaller tabloid format, which it still uses today. Around this time, The Alligator was one of the first college newspapers in the nation to switch from hot type printing to the more modern offset standard.[5]

In 1963, Ed Barber started working at The Alligator, as a student writer. By 1972 he became general manager of the paper.

Barber left the paper in 1973 to become Director of Publications for the university but returned as general manager in 1976 and became president of Campus Communications, Inc. Barber now holds the title of president emeritus of The Alligator and is executive director of the Alligator Alumni Association. Patricia Carey, a veteran manager of the newspaper, succeeded Barber as general manager of The Alligator and president of Campus Communications.

Originally, the Office of Student Publications was located in the basement of the old Florida Union (today Dauer Hall), which was then the student union, in the north part of campus. In 1968, the paper moved into a new suite of offices on the third floor of the new union, the J. Wayne Reitz Union, directly adjacent to Student Government administrative offices.

Events leading to independence[edit]

The tumult of the late 1960s featured the resignation of editors who disagreed with an editorial denouncing the university's public tenure hearing for Marshall Jones, a professor who was accused of being a communist by the university administration. He was forced from the university. The university's crowded public hearing on Jones was denounced in Florida newspapers as reminiscent of the McCarthyist Red Scare of the 1950s. The editorial, written after the first hearing by journalism student and reporter Michael Abrams (who later became a journalism professor), was censored by the university's Board of Student Publications, and a blank space with the word "Censored" run in its place. Several of the student editors of the newspaper resigned over what they saw as the tone of the editorial and its anti-administration bent.

A national controversy ensued. Columnist Drew Pearson came to campus and gave strong support to the remaining staff. Editor Steve Hull, who also remained, assembled a new set of student editors. Throughout this time, the School of Journalism and Communications won a series of Hearst Journalism Awards, and many Alligator reporters and editors ultimately became well known in their professions.

The newspaper continued to do investigative reporting including stories about low wages paid to maintenance employees. It was during this time the newspaper was awarded the Pacemaker award as the best college paper in the nation. Among the key writers of the Alligator at the time were James Cook, later an attorney, who wrote the "Uncle Javerneck" column, and Joe Torchia, later a novelist, who intercepted humorous letters from "God" to various people, sparking an uproar among some religious readers.

Many copies of the final edition of the newspaper, with its somewhat racy collage of farewell pictures including the university president in a less than auspicious pose, were seized by those who supported the university administration.

Controversy ensued with a new set of editors being selected by the board, and an off-campus newspaper, University Report, published by Hull, Abrams, and Scott DeGarmo, a master's student in history. The paper exposed spying on students by government officials and law enforcement agents and was an outspoken critic of the administration of Stephen C. O'Connell, the former Florida Supreme Court justice and University President. One of its stories told of a government agent "Palmer Wee" who was apparently hired to watch radical students. The headline read "Wee is watching you." The paper printed several issues and was typeset on an old typesetting machine that was somewhat larger than a typewriter and sat on a living room floor. It was published out of town, as at least one local printer refused to print it.

The university administration continued to simmer over radical editors. In late 1971, editor Ron Sachs approved an insert to be published in The Alligator that printed the addresses of known abortion clinics. At the time, not only was abortion illegal in Florida, but even the printing of abortion information violated state law. The insert, a deliberate challenge by Sachs in protest of laws against abortion, threw the university into a firestorm. Both Sachs and university president Stephen C. O'Connell faced intense public pressure. When O'Connell discovered that Sachs was protected by federal First Amendment case law, he started working to disavow any connection between the university and The Alligator.

To defuse the hostile situation, Florida Attorney General Robert Shevin ruled that to protect students' First Amendment rights, the university and The Alligator should split. At the time, O'Connell declared that never again would UF sponsor a student newspaper on campus. As a further compromise agreement between the university and the newspaper's staff, the students were allowed to take The Alligator private and off campus. Sachs' challenge of the abortion law was successful; his criminal prosecution ended when the law was declared unconstitutional. Sachs later won an Emmy Award as a television producer in Miami, for his documentary Cocaine: The Lady is a Killer.

History after independence[edit]

The newly independent Alligator

The newspaper changed its name to The Independent Florida Alligator and took several years to find a permanent home. New owners Campus Communications moved in 1982 to the former Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity house two blocks east of campus on University Avenue.

Alligator writers and photographers won a dozen Hearst Awards during the period 1971 to 1979, a period when the paper also won several awards from the Associated Collegiate Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. Until the mid-1990s, Alligator alumni had won more Hearst writing and photo awards than any other student newspaper. (It now ranks second behind the Daily Northwestern of Northwestern University).

The Alligator also was one of the first college papers on the Internet, hosting a bulletin board system as early as 1985 and a website beginning in 1994.

In 1990, Campus Communications bought the High Springs Herald, the weekly newspaper of High Springs, Florida, about 30 miles outside the university. The High Springs Herald was sold in February 2009 to Ronald Dupont Jr.

In May 2016 The Alligator moved operations from its former location on University Avenue, where it had operated for over 30 years, to the same building as the The Gainesville Sun.[6]

The George A. Smathers Libraries currently hold microfilms of the early issues of The Independent Florida Alligator.[7]

The George A. Smathers Library has digitized all issues of The University News, The Florida Alligator and The Independent Florida Alligator.


Former Alligator staffers work at major newspapers, magazines, and news agencies, including the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Palm Beach Post, the Associated Press, and The New York Times, among others.[8][9]

Alligator photographer and editor Robert Ellison (1944–1968) died in Vietnam while covering the Battle of Khe Sanh for the newspaper.[10][11] His work, later published in Newsweek as "The Agony of Khe Sanh," won several posthumous awards.[12]

Charles Edward Bennett
Alumni Notability
Don Addis St. Petersburg Times editorial cartoonist; created the long-running series of "Sex Symbols" cartoons in Playboy

Jan Godown Annino National Geographic Children's Books author[13][14]

Charles Edward Bennett
(editor 1931)
U.S. Representative (longest serving in Florida history)[15][16]
Al Burt Miami Herald writer[17][18]
Rhea Chiles Wife of Florida Governor Lawton Chiles; Former First Lady of Florida[19][20]
H. G. Davis, Jr. The Gainesville Sun columnist; Pulitzer Prize winner; longtime UF journalism professor[21]
Karen DeYoung The Washington Post writer and associate editor; Pulitzer Prize winner[22][23]
Brian Doherty Libertarian writer; Reason magazine senior editor[24][25]
Gregg Doyel Current writer for, also worked for the Charlotte Observer and the Miami Herald[26]
David Finkel Washington Post writer; Pulitzer Prize winner[27][28]
Philip Graham The Washington Post publisher from 1946 to 1963, husband of Katharine Graham and Washington Post successor[29][30][31]
Carl Hiaasen Miami Herald columnist; crime fiction novelist (Tourist Season, Strip Tease, Skinny Dip)[32][33][34]
Ian Johnson
(editor Fall 1983)
The Wall Street Journal writer and Berlin bureau chief; Pulitzer Prize winner[35][36]
David Lawrence Jr.
(editor Spring 1963)
Former publisher of the Miami Herald and Detroit Free Press[37][38]
Samuel Proctor Historian and longtime UF history professor; University Historian; Florida history, and oral history[39][40][41]

Rivals and related publications[edit]

Since Stephen C. O'Connell stepped down as UF president in 1973, several rivals to The Alligator have set up shop. Most of these publications were started or actively encouraged by the university Student Government.

One notable contender was Campus Leader, a monthly alternative newspaper started in 1983. Sponsored by Student Government and edited by W.H. "Butch" Oxendine, Jr., it lasted somewhat less than a year as a direct competitor.[42][43] Losing his sponsorship, Oxendine changed the magazine's focus, limiting it to students and education and renaming it Florida Leader. Florida Leader was distributed at nearly every college and university in the state and also published a separate high school edition. The magazine printed until 2006.

Another rival was The Orange and Blue, a twice-weekly newspaper in operation from August 1999 to July 2002. The Orange and Blue was similar in format to and was started by the publishers of, FSView, a student newspaper at Florida State University in Tallahassee that won a long-running battle with a rival FSU newspaper, the Florida Flambeau.

In 2000, confusion with a university publication also called The Orange and Blue led the newspaper to change its name to The Gator Times. Although Student Government leaders quickly supported the new paper, the Times did not survive. (The name Gator Times is also used by the administration as the title of its email newsletter and in promotional material).

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the February 7, 2018, episode of the television game show Jeopardy!, one of the clues was, "The Independent Florida Alligator is a newspaper aimed at college students in this city."[44][45]


  1. ^ "About Us". The Independent Florida Alligator. Retrieved 17 May 2024.
  2. ^ "Best College Newspapers". Cappex College Insider. Archived from the original on September 23, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ "College Newspaper, TV, and Radio Affiliates". UWire. Archived from the original on May 1, 2008. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  4. ^ "Info about the Alligator". Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  5. ^ "Historical info from the University of Florida". Archived from the original on 2010-05-31. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
  6. ^ Swirko, Cindy (March 29, 2016). "The Independent Florida Alligator moving to Gainesville Sun building". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
  7. ^ "The Alligator". Archived from the original on December 17, 2020. Retrieved 2021-01-31.
  8. ^ "Alligator Alumni Association | Alligator Alumni Association™". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  9. ^ "Pardon Our Interruption". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  10. ^ Doyle, Dan (2017-05-08). "A Single Photo Brings Memories Of Khe Sanh Back To Vivid, Deadly Reality". The Veterans Site News. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  11. ^ "A young photographer took this harrowing image of the Vietnam War. He didn't live to see it published". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  12. ^ Newsweek, 03-18-1968 - The Agony Of Khe Sanh, 2014-09-17, retrieved 2022-12-24
  13. ^ "Don Addis, 1935–2009 - Freedom From Religion Foundation". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  14. ^ "Don Addis: A Fly on the Wall of Life The Late Editorial Cartoonist Cornered the Mundane and the Insane". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  15. ^ "Charles Bennett". Florida Veterans' Hall Of Fame Society. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  16. ^ Files, John (2003-09-10). "Charles E. Bennett Dies at 92; Put 'In God We Trust' on Bills". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  17. ^ "Al Burt". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  18. ^ "UF Digital Collections". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  19. ^ Cotterell, Bill. "Former first lady Rhea Chiles dies at 84". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  20. ^ "Rhea Chiles, wife of late Gov. Lawton Chiles, dies at age 84". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  21. ^ "H.G. Davis Jr. 80, Winner Of Pulitzer for Editorials". The New York Times. 2004-08-21. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  22. ^ "Karen DeYoung | Author". Penguin Random House Audio. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  23. ^ "Karen DeYoung". FRONTLINE. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  24. ^ "Brian Doherty". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  25. ^ "Doherty, Brian 1968– |". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  26. ^ "Gregg Doyel | The Indianapolis Star". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  27. ^ "David Finkel". UF College of Journalism and Communications. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  28. ^ "David Finkel". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  29. ^ "Philip L. Graham Scholarship Fund". UF College of Journalism and Communications. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  30. ^ Rolland, Megan. "Graham donates $1.5 million to UF". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  31. ^ Young Sikes, Janine. "UF benefactor Smathers turns 90". The Star Banner. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  32. ^ "Carl Hiaasen". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  33. ^ "Carl Hiaasen". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  34. ^ "Carl Hiaasen | Penguin Random House". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  35. ^ "Ian Johnson - The Wall Street Journal - VideoLectures.NET". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  36. ^ "Ian Johnson 张彦". The Beijing Center 北京中国学中心. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  37. ^ "David Lawrence Jr". The Children's Movement of Florida. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  38. ^ "David Lawrence Jr". UF College of Journalism and Communications. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  39. ^ "Proctor, Samuel 1919-2005 |". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  40. ^ Proctor, Samuel (2009-12-16). "Dr. Samuel Proctor oral history interview". Carlton-Anthony Tampa Oral History Project.
  41. ^ "Samuel Proctor, retired UF prof, historian dies". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  42. ^ "SG Consultant - Student Government Consultant Butch Oxendine". Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  43. ^ "New Organization Aims to Serve Campus Politicos". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2004-04-30. Retrieved 2022-12-24.
  44. ^ "Show #7693 - Wednesday, February 7, 2018". J! Archive. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  45. ^ "Final Jeopardy: Flag Colors". Fikkle Fame. 7 February 2018. Retrieved 9 February 2018.

External links[edit]

29°39′06″N 82°20′11″W / 29.6518°N 82.3363°W / 29.6518; -82.3363