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Local Journalists Team Up to Cover Climate Change Amid Pandemic


Thursday, December 31, 2020   

Print version by Dan Barkin
Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan
Reporting for The Raleigh News & Observer - North Carolina News Service collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

RALEIGH, N.C. -- As journalists around the country turned their attention this year to covering the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing protests against racism, reporters based in North and South Carolina also teamed up to continue coverage of how climate change is impacting communities.

Adam Wagner, a reporter for the Raleigh News and Observer, and his colleagues spent months reporting on how rising temperatures were affecting North Carolina farmworkers.

He said all communities can learn from stories of climate change.

"I think it's really important to understand how these impacts are already playing out in some of these communities," Wagner explained. "Because, if it's not your community, or if you're not aware of it, there's a pretty good chance that you're going to be aware of it, or see some of these impacts moving forward."

Wagner's work, along with other stories about climate change in the region, made up a six-part series called "Beyond the Beach," published this year by the Raleigh News and Observer.

Sammy Fretwell, an environmental reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, spent months tracking down why a toxic, flesh-eating bacteria, known as vibrio, killed a crabber in a coastal creek in 2017.

He discovered the warming climate brings more storm surges from the ocean that back up into coastal rivers, bringing the bacteria along.

Fretwell said reporting on climate change is a bit like detective work.

"You need time to do these kinds of stories," Fretwell noted. "They're heavy on science and they're complicated, they're much more complicated than you might think. And it takes quite an effort to fully understand these threats."

He pointed out much of the media attention on climate change has focused on warming oceans, rising sea levels and the impact on beach towns. But he added the effects also are being felt in the small towns and rural counties of the Coastal Plain.

He stressed the work of untangling and explaining these effects is only beginning.

This story was produced with original reporting from Adam Wagner for the Raleigh News & Observer and Sammy Fretwell for the State in Columbia, S.C., with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Read the full story here.

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