When I first toured the University of Florida during my junior year of high school, I was taken in by the beautiful sights and sounds of the campus. I knew immediately that UF was the right place for me.
They told me about the great journalism and communications programs UF offered. What they failed to tell me was the seemingly outdated technology.
When I started out in my Radio 1 class, the booths had been around since (I think) the 1970s, with few upgrades to the hardware. Sure, the software was up-to-date, but I think it would have been a little more enticing to work six hours a week at a nicer looking facility. Still, I put my head down and worked hard, eventually becoming one of the co-anchors on the Front Page Edition of All-Things Considered, a one-hour presentation from Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM. Regardless of what its facilities looked like, UF’s Telecommunications program remained one of the top in the country.
Last year, however, the headquarters of the “J-School,” as we so endearingly call it, got a heavy makeover, one that made me wish I was just starting my time at UF so I could fully take advantage of the new facilities for the next four years. Weimer Hall went from dingy and (as my dad phrased it) rotting to sleek, innovative, and forward-thinking, very much at par (and even better!) than the other programs and colleges at the University of Florida. There are study rooms with TV screens for communications research, meeting rooms, a brand new paint job and even an area to sit, relax, and drink some coffee. (Each cup is $1.60 from a nifty little machine.)
My favorite change out of this entire operation is the new Integrated Newsroom Facility, better known to us “newsies” as the INF. Previously at Weimer Hall, the radio and television news teams worked almost exclusively. During construction, the barriers were literally broken down, and the walls that divided the two departments ceased to exist. Now, the INF provides the listeners and viewers of WUFT-FM and WUFT-TV, respectively, the best of both worlds. As a matter of fact, I was a guest on Front Page during one of my TV shifts this semester, and I was brought on to have a live discussion about the story I was working on that day. Other times, Front Page will tease First at Five, our TV news show, by previewing what stories viewers would be able to watch that very day.