by Oscar Gonzalez
College student journalists will typically write the standard fare of school's sports scores or student profiles. That was not the case for Kaitlyn Wang, the current editor-at-large for NYU's student news outlet, Washington Square News (WSN). She found herself, and other student reporters, as targets for the alt-right.
Wang, 19, started dabbling in journalism at the school newspaper, InFlight, during her sophomore year at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, Calif. She's passionate about writing so it made sense to join the school paper, but it was her father who first made the suggestion.
"My dad wanted me to be more practical so he suggested I pick up journalism," she said. "I kind of fell in love with it."
To him, learning to write would help her in the future if she decided to follow his legacy and become a lawyer.
Her time as a student journalist in high school was almost short-lived. Like newspapers across the U.S., her school didn't have the funds to support a student paper. Luckily for Wang, she was part of a team of young journalists who petitioned the school district to keep InFlight active. They succeeded, and she wrote for the paper until she graduated in May 2016.
For her next step in her life, the choice was either staying near home and attend the University of California, Berkeley, or travel across the country to NYU. She felt that if she didn't take the leap and go out of state for college then she would stay in California for the rest of her life.
Wang started at NYU during the fall 2017 semester majoring in history and journalism. In her first week of school, she made sure one of the first places to visit was the school's student news outlet. In her first semester, she took on different jobs at WSN. She made such an impression on the paper's editor-in-chief at the time, Diamond Naga Siu, that Wang was given the job of co-managing editor for the spring 2017 semester.
It was Feb. 2, 2017, when NYU would host a controversial speaker on campus. Controversial conservative figure, Gavin McInnes, was invited by the university's College Republicans group to speak at the school. When counter-protestors stormed the event, 11 people were arrested and McInnes was maced.
WSN ran a story about the event and failed to include additional context regarding McInnes' controversial views. He took to Twitter and threatened to sue the school paper for the error making the entire staff a target of his fanbase.
This created a stressful environment for the newspaper staff as well as Nanci Healy, assistant director of student activities at NYU and the newspaper's adviser. Healy said Wang was amazing during this tumultuous time.
"She never allowed the staff to see her stress with the situation," Healy said. "Many people were alarmed, thought about leaving the paper, and nervous about what it meant for their personal lives and future careers. Kaitlyn handled the situation like a seasoned professional."
Even though McInnes had no case against the newspaper and dropped the matter altogether, the whole ordeal was a splash of water to the face for Wang.
"It was a real wake up call," she said. "People can be awful. It didn't seem normal at the time."
Wang survived her run-in with the alt-right and continues her studies at NYU.
For the spring 2018 semester, she took advantage of another benefit of going to NYU, which is the school's study abroad program. With locations in several countries, Wang narrowed it down to Sydney, Australia; London, England; or Prague, Czech Republic. She decided on Prague to satisfy her love for history and interest in learning a new language.
Her last day in Prague is May 18. She'll head back to New York City to participate in the Dow Jones News Fund program. After a week of learning the ins and outs of business reporting, she'll head to Seattle, WA, to intern at Geekwire.
Then in the fall, she'll start her junior year and graduate May 2019, one year early. She plans to take a little time off to be a journalist and eventually enroll into law school.