.Opinion: Journalism Can Be Literature

UCSC’s Deep Read’s 2023 selection, Elizabeth Kolbert’s ‘Under a White Sky,’ is next-level


Narrative and mindfulness are as crucial to Elizabeth Kolbert as her field reporting on the climate crisis. She wrote a piece for The New Yorker about six months ago, expressing that if climate change “exceeds narrative,” the story must still be told. Yes, Kolbert is a journalist, but she’s a storyteller first and foremost, and throughlines matter to her as much as the facts. Like the practitioners of New Journalism who came before, such as Joan Didion, Kolbert is hyper-aware of the storytelling embedded in her journalism. I think that’s one of the reasons why Under a White Skyworks so well as UCSC’s 2023 Deep Read selection: It reads like a novel with literary devices like plot and metaphors, but it’s journalism in disguise. The first line of Under a White Sky is, “Rivers make good metaphors,” before referencing Mark Twain’s personification of the Mississippi River: “the grimmest and most dead-earnest of reading matter.”

“[Rivers] can be murky and charged with hidden meaning,” Kolbert writes. Praising her as one of the most respected contemporary science journalists doesn’t do justice to her ability. Hailing Kolbert as one of the most respected contemporary writers, who happens to write a lot about science, is more fitting. I spoke with her about that and much more in this week’s cover story.

Kudos to the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz for selecting Under a White Sky for its fourth Deep Read. It might be its most complex book yet. Thankfully, this ultimate book club comes armed with a panel of experts, including Mike Beck (Marine Sciences, Director of the Center for Coastal Climate Resilience) and Sikina Jinnah (Environmental Studies), who have navigated weekly dives over the last month. Don’t miss Elizabeth Kolbert in Conversation with Ezra Klein at the Quarry Amphitheater on Sunday, May 21.

Adam Joseph | Interim Editor


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SEEING DOUBLE A matching sand sculpture of Natural Bridges models the real thing in the distance. Photograph by Brett Macauley.

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The third annual County of Santa Cruz Career Fair is Wednesday, May 17, at the Civic Plaza Community Room in Watsonville. Residents can talk with representatives from more than twenty county departments at the fair about job opportunities. Animal Services, the District Attorney’s office, Health Services and Human Services, Parks and Recreation and many more will be on hand. Attendees can network and learn how to get a job with the County. co.santa-cruz.ca.us


Last week, Watsonville Ivy League Project (WILP) announced that Karla Leyva of Pajaro Valley High School and Morielle Mamaril of Watsonville High School had been accepted to Yale and Cornell. Both were participants of WILP, a program that helps students travel to the East Coast and visit many prestigious universities. The mission for WILP is to expand the vision of career and professional educational opportunities for low-income, first-generation, underrepresented and academically high-performing students in the Pajaro Valley. Congrats grads!


“[Writing] is the hardest work in the world. The only thing that will get you through it is maybe someone will applaud when it’s over.” —Tom Wolfe


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