As I thought about my experience last week at Gator Day, I wondered how this special day off from classes originated. I discovered that it was approved by faculty in 2011 and began in the fall of the 2012/2013 academic year. The goal of Gator Day was to find time
for all students to explore their academic, personal and career interests. It was decided to choose a day each semester with no scheduled classes, athletic practices or extracurricular activities in order to allow every student to participate.
There were numerous events, presentations and programs to choose from in many departments.The weather was cooperative and as I arrived on campus I noticed many students out and about, taking advantage of whatever topics interested them.
I chose to attend a presentation on journalism in the public interest by Sheryl Gay Stolberg titled “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” She is currently a Washington correspondent for the New York Times. She shared in Pulitzer Prizes awarded for coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and 1994 Northridge earthquake. To call her resume impressive or say that her experiences have been extensive, doesn’t seem to do her justice.
The auditorium was not completely filled, but many of my classmates from Journalism 100 attended. Although incentive points may have been a slight motivation for our attendance, my classmates shared that they benefited a great deal from the experience.
Instead of having a formal presentation or lecture, Stolberg chose to have an open discussion style event. She shared some of her experiences and the audience then shared their thoughts related to what news is “fit to print” and what is in the “public interest”. Topics discussed included public interest versus human interest. There were varying views on public shaming and what should or should not be published.
I found it particularly relevant when she shared how she had grown up watching the “Jetsons” cartoon. People who grew up watching that thought that some day we would be like the Jetsons and ride around in space-cars but instead of reaching the space-age, we have reached the information-age. The question this raises is that just because we have the ability to gather information as journalists, is it always in the public interest to publish it?
My experience that day was very thought-provoking and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity. How was your Gator Day?