Capital New York reporter Johana Bhuiyan knew she would become a journalist as early as her days attending New Hyde Park Road School.
“There was never any alternative,” Bhuiyan said. “I wanted to be a journalist in elementary school. I developed a knack for it in elementary school.”
Since October, the New Hyde Park Memorial High School graduate has been working the media beat at her first full-time job, at Capital New York, an online news site covering state politics and media.
“Covering the media is a sort of a unique beat because I’m covering other journalists,” she said. “It’s a full-fledged newsroom, but it’s not so big that I get lost. I get to cut my teeth at it,”
Bhuiyan said she was hired by Capital New York for its Manhattan headquarters bureau prior to the online publication’s relaunch on Dec. 3 in the wake of its acquisition by Politico.
“We’re going out to get stories but we’re also monitoring Web feeds,” she said of Politico’s news model.
Capital New York subscribers receive morning and evening newsletters and breaking news articles pushed to them. The routine of writing and posting items for the newsletters has been an adjustment for Bhuiyan, whose hours vary widely from week to week.
One week she gets up a 5 a.m. every other day to commute from her parents home in New Hyde Park to her Manhattan office to post the Capital New York a.m. newsletter. Alternatively, she works a 3 p.m. to midnight shift to post the publication’s evening newsletter.
“I really prefer it this way. I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up at 5 a.m. every day of my life,” she said. “I think it worked out really well to alternate it.”
Bhuiyan, whose father Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan is president of the Hillside Islamic Center, said in addition to starting a new job and working odd hours she has also had to handle the reactions of people to the hijab she wears to cover her head as a practicing Muslim.
“I’ve definitely seen my share of first glances, people seeing a girl in a head scarf,” she said. “I haven’t experienced anything negative from wearing a head scarf or being a Muslim. If you’re good at your job all that fades away.”
The youngest of four siblings with three older brothers, her first unofficial position was as a news source of family information.
“If anyone in the family wanted to know what was going on, they’d come to me,” she said. “I’ve always been a talkative person and extremely nosy.”
Bhuiyan said she took all the English and journalism classes she could at New Hyde Park Memorial and wrote a couple of articles for the high school newspaper. She also wrote a few stories for the Tri-State Muslim Newspaper during her sophomore and junior years.
“Eventually I want to go into religion reporting or as a foreign correspondent. My religion is a large part of my identity,” she said. “I want to explore the way religions tie different countries together.”
While in high school, Bhuiyan tutored at the Hillside Islamic Center. She was also secretary of the Young Muslims, a local Muslim youth group that does community service at the Interfaith Nutritional Network in Hempstead. She also did volunteer work did volunteer work at St. Luke’s Roosevelt where he mother, Marie Rose, is a psychiatric nurse.
But there was never any doubt that she would become a journalist.
“I went into college knowing I wanted to be a full-fledged reporter,” she said.
At Lehigh University, she was a journalism major with minors in religion and global studies. She reported for Lehigh’s Brown and White newspaper, also writing three columns, including “Unheard Stories,” telling the stories of campus employees and “The Grey Area”, focusing on politics.
“It was my understanding of political events and my opinion of them,” Bhuiyan said. “Being Muslim is a huge part of my identity so of course it would have an effect on my opinion but it's only one facet of my identity."
One of her “Grey Area” columns addressed the controversy about the mosque being built near the site of where the World Trade Towers stood.
As a Muslim, she said, she thought it was “outrageous” that there would be controversy about building a mosque anywhere.
“There are a lot of partisan media outlets out there and they’re going to present the news as they want to,” Bhuiyan said. “Most people know there is such a thing as propaganda.”
Bhuiyan said she didn’t experience any animosity from her college peers regarding the attack on the World Trade Towers and she welcomed any opportunity to explain aspects of Islam to her fellow students.
“If anyone had any questions, I was happy to answer,” she said. “Lehigh is a pretty good school. People there are well-educated and open-minded. It wasn’t like I had a huge barrier in speaking to people about Islam.”
At Lehigh, Bhuiyan won a Willliams Prize, an annual cash award in recognition of outstanding writing by a Lehigh student for three of her college columns.
She also worked at two internships and landed one after graduating last year in May as an editorial assistant with the World Policy Journal, copy editing, and writing two articles for several months before taking her job at Capital New York.