For the first time this winter, KSBY News teamed up with a local high school journalism class for an in-depth reporting project. It was part of the News Literacy Week initiative spearheaded by our parent company, E.W. Scripps.
National News Literacy Week, Jan. 27-31, aims to teach young people about the importance of being responsible news consumers and the role of a free press in a healthy democracy. The multi-station initiative paired broadcasters with young journalists in communities across the country.
For this project, we reached out to the journalism students at Morro Bay High School, who were eager to join forces.
The students said the environment was the biggest concern amongst their fellow classmates, so we decided to look into sea level rise and its potential impacts on our coastal communities.
For their reports in the high school's newspaper, The Spyglass, and in partnership with KSBY News Daybreak anchor Christina Favuzzi, the journalists conducted interviews and pulled data from the following sources:
- National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- California Legislative Analyst's Office
- Morro Bay National Estuary Program
- California King Tides Project (California Coastal Commission)
- Climate Central
- Public Policy Institute of California
- KSBY Chief Meteorologist Dave Hovde
- Morro Bay Community Development Director Scot Graham
- San Luis Coastal Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Prater
- San Luis Coastal Unified School Board Trustee Chris Ungar
The journalists worked to explain sea level rise and what a worst-case scenario would look like, what it could mean for coastal communities, the different strategies local governments can employ to prepare for it and the associated costs.
They also fanned out across Los Osos, Morro Bay and Cayucos to take pictures during the King Tides of January 10-12 to document the extremely high and low tides.
The story was prompted by a report from the California Legislative Analyst's Office that was released in December 2019. "Preparing for Rising Seas: How the State Can Help Support Local Coastal Adaptation Efforts" encouraged state and local governments to work together to begin preparing for the potential impacts of sea level rise.
"We took the report and a second report that we also found about sea level rise, both of which were around 50 pages, and because we didn't all want to have to read all of that but we all wanted to know the information, we split it up between us and read it over winter break," explained Adam Rainbolt, Morro Bay High School Spyglass newspaper editor. "And so when we came back, we worked on making sure everyone was up to speed on what people had read and from there, we split the bigger issue into smaller issues we thought would be more digestible for viewers and readers and with that, we came up with six main topics to discuss and we made those articles assigned to different people on the team."
Rainbolt's article specifically focused on how sea level rise could affect their school.
"I was actually surprised by the fact that the school won't be completely destroyed, even in the worst-case scenario, because we have the natural barrier of the dunes. The school will be mostly okay and so that just illustrates why the dunes and other natural barriers are so important to it," Rainbolt said.
Many of the students said they were surprised by what they learned during their research.
"I live right on the bay in Los Osos so I learned that my house is a very affected area. It's likely that a lot of flooding is gonna happen right at my house," said Taylor Dewey, a writer for The Spyglass. "My house literally backs up into the bay, which is really scary because I've never thought about it. The bay is normally pretty calm compared to like the ocean and stuff so I never thought about it being that much of an issue."
The students said this project was bigger than any other issue they've tackled as young journalists.
"This is a really big project that we took on and I'm really proud of our team and how quickly we did this and I'm really happy with what we've put together so far," said Marisa Dinsmoor, The Spyglass editor. "The stories we tell today become histories and it's also keeping people knowledgeable about what's happening in the community and so I really like being a part of that and telling stories and allowing people to become more aware of the world around them."
To see the students' reports, visit The Spyglass website.
For the full report about sea level rise on KSBY News, click here.
To learn more about News Literacy Week and to see other student-produced news reports from across the country, visit the News Literacy Project website.
Slideshow of January King Tides photos taken by Morro Bay High School journalism students: