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Past Gazelle illustrations compiled by Mahgul Farooqui

The Story of The Gazelle: The Past and Present

A retrospective view of NYUAD’s student publication, in conversation with the co-founders.

The idea of launching a new student publication began in Fall 2012 with the merging visions of two NYU Global Network students — one from the new campus in Abu Dhabi and the other from the long established institution in Lower Manhattan. A few months, several thousand miles and one last minute study away site change later, the first issue of The Gazelle was published from a dorm room in Sama Towers.
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Image courtesy of Amanda Randone
During his semester away in New York, Alistair Blacklock, Class of 2014, first met Amanda Randone, Class of 2014 student from NYU New York and Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Square News, NYU’s daily student newspaper.
“There was so much being written about NYUAD, but not coming from NYUAD itself,” Randone reflected about the curiosity and criticism that accompanied the university’s inception. “We wanted to create a space where students could take ownership over their own voices, their own opinions and their own experiences at a time when they were largely being spoken for.”
With this shared vision in mind, Randone and Blacklock began the extensive process of building a publishing structure that was sustainable and well-suited for the context.
“The work of putting together a student newspaper is significant,” Blacklock explained the challenges they faced. “There were a number of structural limitations — most notably being that at the time, there were very few students.”
Yet, even within the first few months of populating the Downtown Campus, there was recognizable interest in creating a student publication. The Fishbowl Tribune, led by Leah Reynolds, Class of 2014, was a newsletter-style PDF first released in Oct. 2010 and distributed as hard copies to members of the NYUAD community. When Randone and Blacklock revitalized the idea two years later, they held a series of discussions with stakeholders, including Josh Taylor, former Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs and Community Relations at NYUAD.
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“Those early conversations included whether or not The Gazelle should launch as a public-facing media outlet, or if it should follow the path used by The Fishbowl Tribune, starting internally,” explained Taylor. “Those were pretty intense conversations ... but that original launch team was confident they could pull off a public-facing site from day one.”
The small team began to research, relying on the guidance of NYU Journalism alumni, many of whom were reporting on stories related to the Middle East region. According to Randone, it was also a very collaborative process with the existing WSN community.
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Image courtesy of Amanda Randone
“I’m really grateful to the WSN team at the time who lent a hand [and gave us] their insight. We had several of them publish stories,” Randone commented, recognizing her partiality toward the publication she formerly headed. “At the end of the day, we are all supposed to be a part of the same Global Network University serving the same purpose — having an independent student publication at NYUAD only further legitimizes the mission.”
However, existing in a very different legal landscape and with a diverse yet densely interconnected student body, The Gazelle had to deviate from its counterpart in New York on several fronts. Taylor identified the central friction that surrounded the inception of The Gazelle: how to create an authentic student-run media outlet, while at the same time operating in a very different environment.
“The editors here have the most diverse community in the world,” added Kyle Farley, NYUAD Dean of Students. “They are trying to balance covering events and conversations from multiple perspectives in a way that I think is uniquely complicated.”
Since the launch on March 11, 2013, dedicated writers have pursued this mission over 171 Issues chronicling the journey of a new institution — one that has more than doubled in size, moved into a new campus and weathered its fair share of international scrutiny.
For Joey Bui, Class of 2016, the value of The Gazelle came from the fact that there was no other voice breaking news on campus and covering student perspectives to this extent. Bui, now a published author, joined the founding team as an eager freshman and took on the role of Editor in Chief her junior year.
“My tenure as Editor in Chief was mostly characterized by the exact period where all the allegations about labor rights abuses broke out,” she explained. “It was on the front cover of the New York Times and students in New York were protesting.”
With the ability to investigate, report and respond, the student publication built more nuance into many of the conversations taking place both on campus and beyond. The Gazelle provides a platform to both cover campus politics and push for specific policy changes, examine the local and the global and spark and sustain debate. This commitment to journalistic integrity has been consistent over the past six and a half years, as have been a handful of Gazelle traditions — from dining hall pizza to debates on the Oxford comma and midnight time crunches to get the issue live.
Yet, each academic year brings new management, and changing leadership that dictates the goals of the publication. The current team, led by Paula Estrada and Jakob Plaschke, both Class of 2020, increased the number of staff members and implemented structural changes at the beginning of this year.
These changes created a senior position at each desk — News, Features and Opinion — that became integrated into the managing board to improve communication and remedy the disconnect between the daily tasks of desks and the broader managerial questions faced by Editors-in-Chief.
“This year, I would say there is more focus on mentoring young writers and expanding the editorial board in a way that should foster the maturity and growth of The Gazelle.” noted Farley, who serves as the primary liaison between The Gazelle and the NYUAD administration and has been following from the sidelines.
Each article, illustration and interview serves as a time capsule for how far we have come in reporting and creating independent journalism on campus. A retrospective look at the short history of the publication tells a story of collaboration — one that is applicable to the NYU community at large: origins rooted in New York and a shared vision led to an endeavor that expanded globally and which pushed the boundaries of student journalism as we know it.
Caroline Sullivan is Features Editor. Email her at
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