To work at the Future was to love the Future

Caroline Glenn, Current Content Manager

When I was rejected for my first job at the Central Florida Future, back in the summer of 2013, I picked up the phone and cried to my mommy. After we hung up, little did I know, she went out and bought me one of those cheesy inspirational quote knickknacks as a pick-me-up. A little green sign with happy grasshoppers, it read, “Jump at every opportunity.” By the time I received it in the mail, I’d gotten a second call, this time offering me the job.

I knew the Future would be unlike any other job I’d had the night I watched the departing news editor climb on top of a car to rip a hula-hoop out of a tree. It was the same night I watched my fellow opinions editor fall asleep in his sandwich. And the same night I wrangled it out of his hands and ate it.

Those are the kind of people we have at the Future. People who draw their boss’ face on a banana, people who smear lipstick on the incoming chief’s forehead, people who sing opera for their staff in a parking lot.

Over the past three years — time spent as opinions editor, variety editor, managing news editor and content manager — there have been countless birthday cakes (some too frozen to cut), heaps of printouts (for humans, not ants), myriad hair colors (you learn to use myriad correctly at CFF), millions of GroupMe messages, a running list of “words we hate” and a few failed Easter egg hunts.

The Future is where we ask the tough questions, like, “Do you make your doughnuts fresh daily?” Where lunch is as soon as you walk into the office. Where an Edgar Allen Poe mask is our prized possession. Where you’re afraid to use the bathroom because homeless people live in the stalls (not really). Where Wi-Fi is a luxury (we’ve literally put together the paper in a Knights Circle apartment).

It’s where you make friends who last a lifetime. You’ll go to their weddings, their kids’ first birthdays, their loved ones’ funerals. You’ll help them move, build them coffee tables, lend moral support when a cockroach scuttles into their apartment. Sometimes, it’s even where you’ll fall in love.

The more I try to tell you about what the Future is like, the more I hear the phrase, “I guess you had to be there.” I could never explain to you what the Future means to me, or what it has meant to this university and these students and this city.

The Future’s closing will undoubtedly present setbacks for journalism students and professors, for athletics and administration, for local news outlets and readers. But it presents something else: opportunity.

To the journalism students, jump at every opportunity to write, edit, take photos and shoot video. If you don’t like the void that’s been left by the Future’s exit, fill it. Jump at the opportunity to learn about this industry, and don’t be naive, but don’t be bitter either.

To the journalism professors, jump at every opportunity to more effectively teach your students how to work in this time. Teach them to write with a voice, teach them to develop relationships, teach them to take feedback. Jump at every opportunity to promote collaboration instead of malicious competition, to give every student a fighting chance.

To athletics and administration, jump at every opportunity to foster student journalism. There are some people on this campus, one that pays good money to offer a journalism degree, who haven’t spoken to the Future in more than 20 years. To those leaders, jump at every opportunity to forgive. Student journalists are going to make mistakes — that’s the point.

To the local news outlets, jump at every opportunity to pick up where we left off. Bring to campus the kind of reporting you admired in the Future’s pages. For the students of UCF, give them a voice. For the leaders who get in your way, give them hell.

And to the readers, jump at every opportunity to inform yourselves. Be picky. Hold your options to a higher standard, the same standard you set for the Future.

This past year, I’ve mentored 23 “kids” — some who are older than me — during my time as CFF Mom, or as recent staffs have dubbed me, bosslady. They’ve snuck dogs into the office, tried to weasel cuss words into the paper and left so many unwashed dishes littered throughout the office.

They have the unfortunate honor of being the last Future staff. But I’m certain their careers won’t end here. That is, if they do one thing: Jump at every opportunity.

Future's closing a loss to UCF J-school

Jessica Saggio, Florida Today Reporter

As the Central Florida Future closes its doors, I want you all to know something. I want this to sink in. I want administration at UCF to understand this. I want professors to understand this. I want readers to understand this.

The Central Florida Future is so much more than a news organization. It’s more than a club, more than the journalism department’s red-headed step child, more than a business.

It is an institution.

And guess what — it will be a loss to the journalism program and to UCF as a whole.

I had the honor and privilege of managing the CFF for several years. It was a gig I got with a little bit of luck and a lot of faith. The faith part being that the general manager at the time, Ray Bush, took a risk hiring a recent college grad.

But I took this role very seriously. I wasn’t going to come in and babysit. These were adults. I came to the CFF with a mission in mind — to make it a fun and inviting place to learn. That was the goal, at least. Did I achieve it? I think so, but you’d have to ask a staffer.

During the time I was at the CFF, we picked up where the journalism department left off in most cases. I can list many examples of students who walked in the door not knowing how to organize a story — that’s basic journalism 101. Several of those students would improve leaps and bounds and even become editors. In some cases, editors-in-chief.

You know that Drake song “Started from the bottom”? That’s how we operated. You started from the bottom, at any skill level, and could work your way up. And once you made it into an editor position, the likelihood of scoring a job after college increased tremendously. Very, very few CFF staffers are unemployed. Look at the list of successful alumni.

As for the newsroom, each staff became almost like a family. Hence why they called me “mom.” They really did call me mom. I can show you Mother’s Day cards. It was weird — mind you, I was only a few years older than most of them — but I embraced the title.

And they really were like my babies. I drove them home, I protected them and I talked them through life’s many crises. We resolved conflicts; we learned how to work with a diverse staff. And maybe most important, we had fun while doing what we loved. You have to love journalism to be part of this, and if you don’t love it, this is where you find out.

The CFF was a place of refuge for many. Students would come in even when they weren’t scheduled to work. They cared. They cared so much that I think it’s safe to say many cared more about the CFF than the news organizations they’d work for post graduation.

This place had a heartbeat. It was alive — alive with creativity, alive with enthusiasm. You can’t teach that, but it’s contagious.

As the CFF closes up shop, remember that when journalism dies, we lose a little bit of our freedom. A journalist’s mission is to speak truth, to educate and to inform his or her readership. Journalists challenge wrongdoing. CFF did just that for decades.

And that — that is what I hope UCF understands as we say farewell. The CFF cannot easily be replaced.

This is where you learned if you had 'it'

Michelle Ertel, Government relations and communications consultant

A journalist reports on a variety of stories. Some are exciting and some, frankly, are terribly boring. A good journalist is excited about even the most mundane stories. A journalist for the ages takes the mundane and finds a nugget of excitement in the story. There were many of these types of journalists honing their skills during my time as the “grown-up” in the newsroom of the Central Florida Future. There are three that stand out.

The first is a fellow whom I noticed scurrying around the newsroom because he had a Gonzo fist tattoo on his arm. While I was and remain a Hunter S. Thompson devotee, I was a little concerned about a journalist touting an unobjective form of journalism. Then I got to know Abe Aboraya, quite possibly the least Gonzo-esque reporter and editor I have had the pleasure of knowing. Now working for WMFE, Abe continues his quest to find the truth and to inform the public.

While all student staffers came to the newsroom after spending time in the classrooms of some very apt professors, there were a few who had “it.” By “it,” I mean they had an intuition about people and situations that can’t be taught in a classroom. Stephanie Wilken was one of those rare students who had a built-in B.S. detector. Because she did much of the political reporting that came along, she got to use that skill frequently. Stephanie graduated from UCF and has continued to grown in her career. Most recently, I’ve been keeping up with her work by reading the official VFW magazine.

As the adviser, I wasn’t supposed to show favoritism, but one student stands out as, well, my favorite. Jessica Forgino — then Jessica Saggio — came to me as a student who was eager to write about things she thought a wide variety of students on campus wanted to read about. Some of her fellow student staffers weren’t thrilled that she wanted to find out why so many young women were carrying Vera Bradley bags on campus. But Jessica knew fashion was important to some students. Some of her peers, though, thought it was a shallow topic and wanted nothing to do with it. Jessica and I disagreed with them and that led to a standoff in the newsroom. It was during that showdown that I knew Jessica had the grit and guts to make a name for herself in the business. Now a married woman with a toddler and another baby on the way, Jessica is not only an accomplished journalist at FLORIDA TODAY, she is an amazing friend to many and kindhearted human being.

As for me, I left the Central Florida Future and its sister publications in 2010 to open up my own government relations and communications firm, Florida Strategic Advisors. I am a also a political analyst for Central Florida News 13 and a contributor to the Ed Dean radio show and WMFE’s political commentary.

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