Gator Talk: An Interview

College students create new projects, innovations and ideas every day worldwide. One student at the University of Florida and has begun a project that may lead to more open communication among American students. Janine Wolf, along with a few classmates, created the platform Gator Talk in their Innovative Storytelling class. What began as an idea has evolved to include leaders campus-wide and opened the doors of communication. The first question asked among students has dealt with the recent election results, high tensions and the riots thereafter. The program is created in a raw emotional black and white video format, simply focusing on the subject and their answer. Although the project has just begun, Wolf has many more plans for its future.

HerCampus [HC]: What is Gator Talk?

Janine Wolf [JW]: Gator Talk is a project that a group of journalism students and I launched in an effort to use innovative storytelling technology to facilitate thoughtful discussion among our peers at the University of Florida. We tackle the "big questions" and issues depending on what people are talking about and try to find solutions to them.


HC: How did you come up with this idea?

JW: I was originally inspired by Cheddar TV, one of the first web-based live news networks, and the way its founder, Jon Steinberg, and the team are furthering discussion by using innovative communication technologies. I wanted to bring this same concept to UF. We just launched with our first big question, "How can we come together as a nation,a campus, again?," in regard to the recent disputes over the election results. For this question, the Facebook Live did not necessarily fit; however, the concept is still there. UF attracts some of the most competitive and intelligent students in the nation, so facilitating conversation among them seemed fitting. We pushed the conversation onto our platform and interviewed several leaders of student organizations here on campus. It was really cool to see Gator Talk come together like that.People are actually excited about it! That's definitely another motivator. 


HC: Tell me about your first project with it.

JW: Our first project revolved around post-election discussion, particularly addressing what we can do to "come together" as a nation, or campus, again. We reached out to several diversity and political student organizations, like AASU, UF Students for Trump and Gators 4 Hillary, and asked for their leaders to either send us their responses or talk to us in person. After hearing and reading everyone's responses to our big question, I found that a common solution among all was to hear each other out. So simple, but yet so true. It's been really cool to see our project and its purpose come to life and actually lead to tangible results. 


HC: Who has been a part of this first project and what is the format of it?

JW: Three journalism students and I made sure to have a solid framework and plan for our project before reaching out to anyone. This took the majority of time. With the timeliness of the election, we decided to launch Gator Talk with this topic. Another option would have been something about Thanksgiving, which didn't seem appropriate with the buzz around the election. We couldn't just ignore that. So after finally coming up with our topic and the strategy to how it would go about, we reached out to several leaders of student organizations. These ranged from diversity ones to political ones. Most everyone we reached out to were incredibly passionate about our mission and jumped on board. We interviewed five individuals for videos that we later posted onto Gator Talk. The passion they had for the subject matter was very visible. I definitely got goosebumps listening to some of them talk. The format is very raw and real, really making sure to put the focus on the words. We did little to no editing to the videos and no editing at all to typed responses we received. Our goal is not to “shape”the message, per se, just to deliver it to the public. I’m really happy about the response we have received so far.


HC: What do you hope to accomplish from this first project?

JW: I hope that we can further insightful conversations among University of Florida students and faculty to ultimately come up with solutions together. As communication professionals, I feel it is our mission to facilitate talk among people. We had a number of people who represented diverse UF groups participate in the project, even members from the opposing parties. I hope that students, and people as a whole, can learn to hear each other out and move on. In the making of Gator Talk and this first project, I have found that everyone had something to say about election results, the protests, etc., but they have had difficulty finding a safe place to do this. And I think this is key. Gator Talk offers students and others the ability to voice their opinions in a safe place, in other words, they can remain anonymous if they would like. This way, truly everyone is heard. 


HC: Any ideas what project you will focus on next?

JW: You know, it's difficult to say because we base our talking points on the 'big issues' or questions of the moment. But, something that I think would be interesting to hear students and others talk through is that of climate change and its environmental effects. Maybe we can come to a solution for it! Or at least find out what everyone thinks about it. 


HC: What is the future for Gator Talk? 

JW: The future of Gator Talk is to continue tackling the big questions and issues of the moment. I am really hoping to make use of Facebook Live in the future, too. It's funny to think that my initial plan of making a Live show morphed into something else, but I guess that's what makes entrepreneurship so exciting.


If you want to checkout Gator Talk, then head over to the Facebook page and the Tumblr.

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