Thanks for listening, UNA

This is it, the last issue. The end, final countdown, curtain call, all those good clichés. For two years, I’ve written for The Flor-Ala, and, this last year, I worked as the online editor, and to be honest, I really don’t want to stop.

But the time has come, and I know the new staff of The Flor-Ala is ready to go and improve the paper even more than this year, so I have to say goodbye.

The only problem is, I don’t want to say those seven letters. Once I do, it’s officially over.

So instead, let me tell you a story.

Recently, I had the honor to meet members from universities in Serbia who were visiting UNA. Most of them were students and faculty from journalism departments interested in how universities in America run their student papers.

After spending a few days visiting the fast-paced, daily paper at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Serbian students came to our weekly paper. Of course, there’s no way Florence could compare to the capital of Wisconsin. Except Neven Obradovic, a faculty advisor from Serbia, said compared to Madison, he would rather come back to Florence and Alabama.

Why would they choose Florence over Madison? Well, besides the famous southern charm, Obradovic and some of the students told me there was a difference in UNA’s small college town. People actually listened to them.

In Wisconsin, some of the female Serbian students were telling their hostess about the civil wars in Serbia, especially the Kosovo War that shook their childhood.

As they told the hostess about mortar fire and the country tearing itself apart, the hostess listened silently and responded by saying “That’s pretty cool.”

Let me repeat that. A civil war is “pretty cool.”

And that’s not all. One of the Serbians was talking to someone else in Wisconsin about waking up to sirens and other changes that came with the wars in Serbia. “That’s great” was all they got in response.

Now, I know how busy everyone is nowadays. We have dozens of gadgets constantly screaming for our attention, and university students are especially busy with events and parties. That doesn’t mean we can forget how to communicate.

I’m proud of my university. I’m proud of Florence. We have problems like anywhere else with ignorance and being too full of ourselves, but after seeing how these strangers from Serbia became lifelong friends to everyone they met, I see UNA still cares.

I’m glad our UNA community still listens, but I fear we can focus on ourselves too much and everything could become “pretty cool.”

Anyway, goodbye UNA. Thanks for reading. It’s been fun, but don’t forget. If The Flor-Ala stops telling you what you need to know, don’t feel afraid to stand up and chew the paper out. Please do that.

Journalists are only as good as their audiences, and if we don’t have you to converse with, we’re just writing for the wind.