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don addis

Before working for The St. Petersburg Times, illustrator/cartoonist Don Addis started his career on The Alligator staff (1966).

David Klein, Alligator editor (1975) wrote the story of the University of Florida’s student newspaper breaking away from the college, and taking a more aggressive and honest journalistic way, as The “Independent” Florida Alligator.

The Incredible Pulp
When threatened with arrest and imprisonment if he published a list of women’s health care and abortion providers, Alligator editor Ron Sachs, unintimidated, said “I’ve done worse things than hand out newspapers,” and chose to take the risk.

By David Klein
Alligator Staff Writer
For The Floridian

St. Pete Times Sunday Magazine
September 9, 1979

As dawn broke on the morning of October 6, 1971 [INSURRECTION DAY], twenty young Alligator student journalists, on foot and bicycle, swept across the grassy University of Florida campus to distribute news that the authorities said should not be published.

“Everybody has to realize that we can be convicted for felony,” Sachs told his student staff the night before.

Earlier, Sachs had asked his staff to stuff the regular morning papers with a mimeographed list of abortion referral agencies — after the paper was already distributed on campus.

The Alligator‘s printer refused to publish the list of agencies, iting a 103-year-old state law prohibiting any publication or adverisement of any type of abortion information. The University of Florida administration already had ordered Sachs not to print the material. The editor decided to leave the decision to his staff.

The vote was unanimous.

It was the crucial event in the Alligator‘s 65-year history.

After the fallout cleared, Sachs had been arrested, the old abortion law had been overturned in court, and the Alligator itself had been booted off the University of Florida campus, its home since just after the turn of the (20th) century.

The Alligator would never be the same.

In the past, it had provided a stable breeding ground for some of the most successful newspapermen (and a few politicians, too) to come out of the southeast. Executive and/or managing editors at the Miami Herald, Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Atlanta Constitution, St. Petersburg Times, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tallahassee Democrat, and the Gainesville Sun — among others — are all alumni of the old Florida Alligator.

But for six years after printing the abortion agency list, the student paper struggled simply to survive in a decrepit off-campus location with dwindling advertising revenues.

The Alligator left the comparatively plush offices of the student union (Reitz Union) for a converted short-order kitchen in the back rooms of the College Inn restaurant and pinball emporium on Gainesville’s University Avenue. The business and circulation offices set up shop in converted, walk-in deep freezers once used to store meat and produce. The newsroom claimed the fancy spot — the kitchen — beneath a crumbling network of broken masonry, naked wires and shiny foil-covered ventilator pipes. Every time it rained, the carpet was flooded and delicate computer equipment was soaked. Reporters learned to negotiate the obstacle course of huge trash barrels set up around the newsroom to catch the run-off after every storm.

But if anything, the paper responded to adversity by becoming more aggressive.

I sued the university to open confidential records and conferences after its reporters were hauled out of closed administration meetings and arrested or reprimanded. It sent reporters to cover hurricanes, drug shootings, riots and budgetary scandals.

Finally it prospered. Today, The Independent Florida Alligator  is the fifth largest college paper in the country, with a press run of 29,000 copies, five days a week. It’s the fourth largest college paper in terms of advertising revenue. It’s parent company, the non-profit Campus Communications Inc., is a $650,000 a year business. It employs 120 people, including a full-time business manager, production manager, and two accountants, but it has NO faculty supervisors or professional editors.

Almost immediately, the Alligator flexed its new-found “independent” muscle, and built a reputation for breaking stories of fiscal mismanagement in college administration and internal university scandals, the white-collar ones of the ’70s, such as:

n The 1975 UF Business College cheating scandal, in which the Alligator sued the university to open confidential Honor Court hearings. The Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled against the paper.

n UF’s illegal over-enrollment of 600 freshman in 1974, which led a member of the Board of Regents to threaten to fire university administrators.

n UF President Robert Marston’s confidential letters in 1977 to state university system Chancellor E.T. York, insisting the university was being short-changed, causing serious cutbacks in services.

n The recent Alpha Phi Omega  fraternity hazing scandal, subsequently picked up by several major state newspapers and magazines.

And if that weren’t enough, the independent paper drew continued criticism from Marston and his staff for carrying on a running feud over the interpretation of the Florida-Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

Last year (1977) the Alligator made national news when several student reporters, on different occasions, refused to leave closed meeting in Tigert Hall, the administration building. One was my brother Barry Klein, who received the stiffest penalty. University police were called in to escort him away and place him under arrest, though the charges were dropped the next day.

“I was ordered by Tom Julin (then editor) to pick my spot and take a stand,” Barry explained. “It was just a matter of sneaking around until I found the right meeting. Then I just kind of knocked, and they let me in.”

Barry was already well known to university administrators for a previous story he had written in which he deliberately lied about his identity to prove security was so lax he could fraudulently obtain another student’s private records.

Barry, in the spirit of an honestly “independent” newspaper had pissed the administration off.

“I’ve got a nasty records file myself,” Klein said. “For a while it seemed I got an official reprimand after every story. But it was a kick. I was sitting on the front page every day.”

That was the motivation, of course. Maybe the president of the biggest university in Florida is criticizing you in public … “But at least he’ll take your calls,” Barry said.

 “I remember when I walked in the first day,” recalled Dennis Kneale, 1978 Alligator editor-in-chief, who later interned at the Washington Post. (Forbes Magazine editor)

“All these phones were ringing, there was the clackety-clack of typewriters, all these people screaming at each other across this crumbling room — I was overwhelmed. It gave me a real sense of the 1960s counterculture; all these grubby, hardworking, longhaired kids putting out this really aggressive paper.”

It’s like BINGO! Suddenly your a newspaper kid. And if you don’t know what to do, fake it.

—30—

Two year after Ron Sachs’ insurrection, The Alligator severed all ties with The University of Florida, and left its offices in the Reitz Union. The paper was re-named The “Independent” Florida Alligator, and future staffs (still made up of UF students) were filled with aggressive writers, photographers, and editors, who set out to light Gainesville and the University of Florida on Journalistic fire.

Independence Day
thursday
february 1, 1973
vol 65 no 75

Stephen C. O’Connell
(THE LAW) 
Florida Supreme Court Justice, and pro-life, Christian, Democrat, and middleweight boxing champion … 

The Alligator took immediate advantage of its newfound Freedom to Speak. In it’s first independent day, the lede story, across the top of the page, above the new “INDEPENDENT” FLORIDA ALLIGATOR flag (logo) was a story about the effort to decriminalize marijuana. And  closing the Alligator‘s first week of freedom, editorial cartoonist, Hännafin (?) spoke for a unified Alligator staff, expressing its feeling toward the God-fearing, Christian president who tried to silence the paper, and have its editor, Ron Sachs, sent to jail.

Finally a Free Press
Taking its freedom seriously, the now Independent Florida Alligator turned a critical eye on the University’s administration, questioning how (and for what purpose) the school, Blue Key, and Student Government was spending our money. Since that day, October 6, 1971, when editor Ron Sachs inserted “THE LIST,” and distributed it across the University of Florida campus, the Alligator has been honestly independent, and worked everyday to prove it.

—30—

The Incredible Pulp
september 9, 1979
Floridian
(St Petersburg Times Sunday magazine)

Insurrection Day
thursday
october 6, 1971
vol 65 no 75

Independence Day
thursday
february 1, 1973
vol 65 no 75

 

“All Right Now”
Free
Fire and Water 
((( 1970 )))

 

Free (1970)

“Living In The USA”
Steve Miller Band
Sailor
((( 1968 )))

 

Steve Miller Band (1968)

“Rock America”
Afrika Bambaataa w/SoulSonic Force
((( 1980 )))

 

Afrika Bambaataa w/SoulSonic Force

Linda Ronstadt Living in the USA (1978)
Neil Diamond The Jazz Singer “America” (1981)

 

“I Fought The Law”
The Clash (1977)
and The Independent Florida Alligator Won.
((( independent difference )))

 

The Clash (1977)

“Rock the Casbah” Punk (Political) with a political message London Calling. The Kuntz Brothers, Vinny and Phil out of New Jersey “Sandinista” Tom Petty fashion sense … TROUBLE IN IRAN, OIL CONCERNS, “AIRBORNE RANGER”