LAS VEGAS, NV – Alex Wong still isn’t sure what he wants to be when he grows up. But if he decides to pursue journalism he has a resume that would catch any editor’s attention. He’s interviewed America’s first Latina senator, profiled a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting, interviewed a senior vice president, and reported from the one of the world’s largest technology trade shows…all before his 16th birthday.
More than that, the 15-year old West Career & Technical Academy freshman has developed a shrewd sense of the profession since he started reporting for the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps last year.
“I think journalism is one of the most important facets of our society, it’s really important because it can shape social attitudes,” Wong said. “I can see everyday, where lots of people in my grade believe certain things based on what news they watch. And its’ something that is really important.”
That responsibility, he said, is what makes it worthwhile.
“I’ve met people of all different backgrounds because of journalism. I’ve also learned how important it is to be factual and ensure that what you’re saying is the truth, because sometimes when you don’t tell the truth it can shape peoples’ opinions,” he said.
Wong isn’t ready to commit to joining the Silver State’s press corps just yet. His other interests lie in business, debate, and aerospace technology.
“I had a really simplistic view on different jobs before I was in ninth grade, and now I don’t really have a solid sense of what I want to be when I’m older,” he said.
Like a lot of journalists, Wong has plenty to say and a hard time keeping it to himself. He’s an avid debater, traveling in and out of state to take part in tournaments. His roots as a journalist trace back to debate.
Alex Wong interviews Traci Wickham, a survivor of the Oct. 1 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip.
“It’s all about current events, and journalism is able to disseminate a lot of information that I use in my debates,” he said. “I was also able to learn a lot more about the world through debate and journalism because they involve taking peoples’ different viewpoints and showing it to other people.”
For now though, Wong is one of 44 reporters across the country for the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps, and the only one in Nevada. He spoke to Las Vegas Patch about what he’s learned on the job, and what the future of journalism looks like to him.
How and why did you get into journalism?
Wong: “I originally got into it because my English teacher was telling us that it would be a great opportunity. She also said we would get extra credit. It’s really fun to just learn how a journalist operates and what goes into making a story. Because you read all these stories online, and watch the news on television, so it just seems like a lot of facts. But when you actually look at it, it’s actually kind of difficult to get all this information. People have to travel to get information, they have to be able to research and find more about what they’re writing about. It was far more complex than I originally though, because I was of the mindset that it will be easy.”
Wong: “There’s no easy answer, but I think journalism is all about showing people the facts. And I think it’s really important that journalism has to be accurate, but it should be free (of influence).”
After the shooting at a high school in Parkland, FL, people your age seem to have a platform for their voice that they didn’t have before. As a journalist, where do you fit into that movement?
Wong: “I was actually considering writing a story about it, and just interviewing some of my teachers on what they think about gun control and school safety. I think as a journalist it’s really important that I show people about these important social issues. And since I’m in a position to do this, I think it’s important that I am able to do it. Also, that I should learn more about what I’m talking about.
“This current topic, which is gun control, I’m really passionate about because the October 1 shooting here in Las Vegas. That really affected people that were close to me. I just never really thought about it that much before, then I realized that I was able to think about things differently because what I heard via the media. So it’s really important that I can also show people my views on things.”
You said on your profile that you seek objectivity in your reporting. Explain your challenges with that.
Wong: “It’s definitely hard to be objective. You probably can’t get complete objectivity since everyone has different viewpoints and it probably might reflect in what they write. But I think what people can do is show both sides of the story. Show both arguments and the different pros and cons. Instead of telling people exactly what they should think, I believe journalism should be giving people the information they need in order to make a decision on their own.”
What is the most pressing issue facing your generation?
Wong: “I think an important issue for people our age is technology. Things like social media and all those other platforms are relevant to people in our demographic. So many teenagers, and people younger than that, and millennials – their lives are often centered around technology. So I think that is a relevant topic.
“Lots of kids can learn how to use technology in a way to advocate for themselves and be able to show what’s important to them. They can use it to cause social changes like what we’re seeing right now. They can communicate with each other on things like that but it also affects some people in my grade. They get into some things that are explicit, or sometimes they learn about things that can cause depression.
“It can really impact all of our lives in every way, because it not only impacts how we see things or how we can advocate for ourselves, but in our daily life what we see everyday. And what makes us happy, or sad, or depressed. It can affect so many aspects of our lives.”
You’re learning about journalism in this new age. You’ve always had Twitter and social media. How do you think social media’s role will evolve as it pertains to journalism?
Wong: “I think social media is going to play a really large role in journalism. Even now we’re seeing a lot of the younger generation relies on social media for the majority of their news. It’s only going to get bigger as it spreads to more people – both younger and older.
You were able to interview Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto. What did you learn from your conversation with her?
Wong: “It was really fun. I thought it was going to be super serious, but it actually was more like a discussion and she was a lot more open than I though it would be. It was mostly about her being the first Latina senator and her message of trying to show other Latinas, or people of Latin American descent, that they can do whatever they want, and become whatever they want.”
Alex Wong interviews Cirque du Soleil Senior Vice President Jerry Nadal.
As a technology enthusiast, you must have enjoyed reporting from the CES 2017.
Wong: “It was really fun because I not only got to see all the technology, but I got to meet so many cool people. I got to see what goes into making the show. They work for a whole year in order to make that one show. I think it’s really fascinating how all of these different people who are pushing the boundaries of technology come to one place.”
Read Alex’s work:
Images provided by Loribelle Lapaix/Scholastic Inc. Portions of this interview were edited.