The Alligator: Emotionally right, argumentatively wrong?
July 20, 2012 1 Comment
The Alligator. It’s an institution that even non-UF people know about, especially in the past few years, but pretty much has stood the test of time. It’s invited witticism, criticism and even good ol’ cynicism in the many years it’s been in circulation.
But now it’s facing something it didn’t want to face: exile-…ism. (I’m sorry folks it’s 718 AM and I need to start packing ugh, but this article I feel like needs to be written).
The University of Florida has asked that The Alligator get rid of its points of distribution, its iconic, rusty orange racks, you see across campus by August 15th. This is because of those bigger, less personable newspaper distribution centers that you may have seen lately on campus; these “black boxes” are to be used by all newspapers (this includes the NY Times and USA Today which are distributed free on campus) and newspapers will have to pay a licensing fee in order to be able to use these black boxes. The Alligator, nor UF (at least from my superficial research) has not clarified whether this applies to all magazines (like “Campus Talk” or those silly deal books you see) and newspapers (do remember that SG provides funding to bring the Times and USA Today to campus, so they may have incorporated the licensing/lease fee for their proper space in these black boxes.
The Alligator contends that this is a violation of free speech and “editorial independence”, according to the Gainesville Sun. Some observers are even saying that this may be a test case to be argued in many courts on First Amendment grounds…that, in itself, makes this a much more serious issue than just a business issue.
However, is it really that…complicated? Sure, it seems a little odd to charge someone the right to distribute news on what’s considered public land, but I have the feeling that paradoxically the Alligator wants special treatment. I understand that the Alligator is basically a “poor man’s” newspaper in the sense that they REALLY depend on advertising and barely paying their writers in order to get newspapers out to its readers. Therefore, a lease or licensing agreement puts more financial stress on an already financially stressed organization, so naturally the Alligator would be opposed to having to pay for something they’ve never had to worry about before. However, with the Alligator always stressing that they’re an independent organization, they think they have a right to keep their orange racks which they have used a symbol for their last stand. But, if the University did allow them to keep their orange racks, then shouldn’t that imply favoritism by the University and, as such, no real “independence” for the Alligator? Again, details are scarce so we don’t know how other journalistic publications are being treated with respect to this licensing/lease fee.
But also, let’s consider something else… in this article posted by the Alligator staff, they even admit that they learned of this plan in 2010, after supposedly not being notified about the plan when it was conceived in 2009, and that Dr. Denslow was starting a study…in Spring of 2012. First of all, doesn’t the Alligator have a representative actively looking out for this kind of stuff for their best interests? And why wait til 2012 Spring, two years later, to start commissioning studies from a distinguished professor who’s done studies on the economic recovery of Florida and frankly has better things to do with his time than save a student newspaper? Especially when he’s slated to retire? And I love how the Alligator portrays UF stopping his study as if they put him under house arrest to keep some dark, hidden secret from being released. It’s freakin’ Dr. David Denslow…he’s brought great reputation and prestige to our Economics program with his stellar analysis. And yet the Alligator portrays UF as some sort of policing agency where they “refused to let him finish his work before removing our bins”. (I’m not saying UF’s the moral high ground by any means, but this kind of flowery language is unnecessary…I’m sure Dr. Denslow could’ve finished his work if he really wanted to…).
There are lots of details that aren’t clear, and to be fair to the Alligator we haven’t really heard that much of UF’s official stance on the matter except that a UF spokeswoman said “the door is open” to further negotiations. So I can’t really say conclusively my opinion about who’s in the wrong and who’s in the right. I love reading the Alligator as much as many other students do, and I do hate to see those rusty racks go. However, an organization that claims to be so independent shouldn’t actively be trying to get favors to “stand out” for free…they should play the game fairly as well.
On a secondhand note….isn’t it kind of funny how SG hasn’t batted one eye to this matter or shown its support for the Alligator? One could possibly think this was some UBER-GRAND-BLUE KEY/GREEK CONSPIRACY OMGZZ. OK, probably not, but still it’s worth thinking about…especially since I wasted my whole morning thinking about it today.