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ALLIGATOR-INDEPENDENCE-DAY

  

Wednesday
October 6, 1971
Vol 64 No 12

The University of Florida president (1971), Stephen C. O’Connell forbade editor Ron Sachs and the Alligator from printing a list of abortion providers. Sachs and the staff agreed, unanimously, to defy O’Connell’s order, and the rest is “INDEPENDENT” history.

alligator

Independence Day
wednesday
october 6, 1971
vol. 64 no. 12

Vietnam, RFK, MLK, Assassination, Earthrise, Woodstock, Altamonte, and “Whitey On The Moon.” Left vs. Right, Anti-Warriors fighting for peace, Liberated women screaming for Equal and Reproductive Rights, and a small newspaper claiming its right to speak freely.

the list

As University president Stephen C. O’Connell saw it, Alligator editor Ron Sachs, having inserted a list of abortion clinics, womens’ healthcare providers, and pregnancy counseling services, had broken the law. In Florida, it was criminal, not only to have an abortion, but also to publish or disseminate any information that had anything to do with abortion, and an editor who violated that law, in the eyes of the Lord, needed to be punished.

“I Fought The Law”
1977The Clash

The Clash 
((( sophisticated punk )))

alligator file

Alligator editor Ron Sachs at a press conference during O’Connell’s effort to prosecute him for defying O’Connell’s order not to publish a list of abortion and women’s health care providers. 

The Alligator fought the law 
and the First Amendment won.

gonzo insurgency. With a Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing zeal, the Alligator staff got up before dawn, took positions next to the newspaper boxes around campus, and waited for the truck to drop this special day’s bundles.

How The Alligator won the fight for its independence, and after, hit the ground running.

By David Klein
Alligator Staff Writer (1975)
For The Floridian (St. Pete Times Sunday Magazine)

Are you sure you want to do this? asked those who Ron Sachs had asked for advice and council. Sachs’ “YES” was immediate. And to settle his nerves, added light-heartedly, “I’ve done worse things than hand out newspapers.

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swept across the grassy University of Florida campus as dawn broke to distribute news that the authorities said should not be published.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

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. Pete Times, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Tallahassee Democrat, Gainesville Sun, and Miami Herald — 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:

g 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.

g 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.

g 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.

g 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 you a newspaper kid. And if you don’t know what to do, fake it.

Two year after the insurrection, The Alligator left campus for good, was re-named The “Independent” Florida Alligator, and future staffs were filled with aggressive writers, photographers, and editors, who set out to light Gainesville and the University of Florida on Journalistic fire.

Thursday
February 1, 1973
Vol 65 No 75

Finally a Free Press
Taking its new found Independence seriously, the now Independent Alligator stepped into its Constitutional (fourth branch of government) role with purpose. It became an appropriate and necessary critic of the University of Florida administration. Scrutinizing how (and for what purpose) the administration and Student Government (Blue Key) was spending our money. The Alligator was honestly “Independent,” and it set out to prove it.

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

The Alligator took immediate advantage of its newfound Freedom to Speak. To close out the first week of independence, Hännafin’s illustration spoke for a unified Alligator staff in how it felt about the good-Christian man who tried to silence the paper, and have editor Ron Sachs sent to jail.

—30—

alligator
Contents
Staff

FLOWER POWER

 

“Abraham Martin and John”
Marvin Gaye
That’s the Way Love Is
1970Bitches Brew

((( fighting words )))

 

Flower Power is a photograph taken by American photographer Bernie Boston for the now-defunct The Washington Star newspaper. Taken on October 21, 1967, during the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam’s “March on The Pentagon”, the photo shows a Vietnam War protester placing a carnation into the barrel of a rifle held by a soldier of the 503rd Military Police Battalion. It was nominated for the 1967 Pulitzer Prize.

“American Pie”
Don McLean 
American Pie
((( 1971 )))

 

“Smoking In The Boys Room”
Brownsville Station 
Yeah!
((( 1973 )))

 

“Freedom of Speech”
Above The Law
Pump Up The Volume
((( 1990 )))

 

“Freedom”
Karl Denison’s Tiny Universe
The Bridge
((( 2002 )))

 

“Freedom”
Melle Mel & The Furious 5
Original Sugar Hill Rhythm Section
((( 1980 )))

 

tuesday
september 24, 1912
vol. 1 no. 1

ALLIGATOR WRITERS/EDITORS
ALLIGATOR PHOTOGRAPHERS 

IN THE BEGINNING (Vol.1 No.1)
florida history (1912-1983)
WELCOME TO GAINESVILLE
Much more than just another sleepy, little, North Florida town.
New Student Edition 1981
OPINION (Letters To The Editor)
CONVENIENCE (Is In The Eye of The Beholder)

100 THINGS TO DO (IN GAINESVILLE)
REMEMBER WHEN? (’70s QUIZ SHOW)
FOOTBALL ALMIGHTY
GATOR GROWL (HOMECOMING)
Gainesville Green (“I’d like to fertilize her buds”)
TOM PETTY (Coming Home)
MUSIC (The Sound of Higher Education)
HALLOWEEN BALL
PREACHERS (On The Green)
Murphree’s Opening Message (alt.)
Naked Launch (Pretty As A Florida Picture)
Diamond Teeth Mary (Singing With The Devil’s)
MOVIES (Pop Culture of The Day)

ALLIGATOR PHOTOGRAPHERS 

 

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

 

 

 

 

A Florida Journalist, Photographer, and Art Director with an eclectic client list of individuals and organizations with musical, visual, educational, and editorial interests.

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