When I was a freshman at the University of Florida, I was trying to figure out a complex world of adjusting to college life, figuring out a career path and a slew of personal and professional problems.

I did my best to stay involved and participate in as many professional organizations as possbile. SPJ, NPPA, Advisory Councils and many more.

North Floirda Herald Nov. 27, 2011. This may be the final issue of The North Florida Herald, the one that is in the stands now.

These were not very productive, in my humble opinion, for an individual to grow. You are exposed to many facets of the industry and occasionaly inspired. 

In October of 2008, I attended a meeting with the College of Journalism and Communications Advisory Council for the department of journalism. As a freshman, I sat in a room with my older classmates, friends and present and future colleagues. We sat silent after our introductions.

But one man in the room wouldn't have this.

"Come on guys. Don't be a weenie!," was yelled from the corner.

We laughed, and then began one of the most productive two hours of my college career.

From rants on slow registartion to poor professors, curriculum and the state of our aweful student lounge, the council listened - and so did Ron Dupont.

Ron was not yet the editor and publisher of the High Springs Herald (soon to become the North Florida Herald). But he was a passionate journalist who knew the positive effects local journalism had on its community.

I was already interning at The Gainesville Sun when I met Ron, and he immedietly told me how important it was that I work for the Herald.

I foolishly got caught up in a furry of freelance work and never got around to interning for Ron.

This decision is one I will regret for quite some time.

As an editor, Ron would challenge his interns like no other I knew. He and I had lengthy discussions on the importance of making writers take photographs and making photographers write. Ron was the first to tell me that I needed to learn how to do more than "just take pictures."

At the end of our advisory council meetings I walked up to Ron, upset at his accusations of weenieness.

"I'm no weenie," I exclaimed.  

He laughed, and we talked some more.

In editing this post, it looks more like a eulogy than a friendly compliment to a mentor I respect.

It is a eulogy in a sense.

This week, the North Florida Herald will be closing its doors after over a half century of providing a service to its readers that can never be replaced.

The Herald understood the importance of forming a relationship with its readers. No story was too small, and every reader had a voice.

I had the pleasure of being published in the Herald twice. Once while I was working on a seperate project in Alachua County and stumbled across a brush fire, and the second, when Ron called me to cover a high school prom. I learned more about local journalism and the impact on its readers that night than I could in any university classroom.

I can't imagine how differently my career path might have been if I spent a week, a semester, a year with Ron and the Herald. My career would have been changed for the better.

I am forever grateful of his passion for local journalism and the Herald's dedication to its readers.

Let's hope there is some way to save the Herald or another form of quality journalism that can come out of this incredibly sad situation.

If anybody wanted to help, even in small way, you can always mail a check to P.O. Box 745, High Springs, FL 32655. The checks should be made payable to The North Florida Herald with a note that the money is a gift. 

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