Events & Media

Tales from the Harbor
MESM student writes stories about those in the waterfront community for SB Independent

By Lily Tsukayama

Smadar Levy

Smadar Levy (MESM 2016) has started a new series for the Santa Barbara Independent, telling the unique stories of the waterfront community. Each article in the series, “Faces of the Sea,” highlights a different community member and his or her ties with the ocean and the local fishing industry. The articles are released every Tuesday, and so far, four have been published online.

Levy began writing creatively when she was in elementary school, but the thought of writing professionally did not initially cross her mind. At the Bren School, she was reminded of her interest in writing through her coursework in the Strategic Environmental Communications and Media focus, and was further nudged in that direction when, for a class assignment, she wrote the first few chapters for a dystopian young adult novel.

Entering her last quarter at Bren and considering her next step after graduation, Levy sought a creative outlet. “My brain was hurting and I realized that I just needed to write,” she says. She started a blog, and was then inspired by a guest speaker in a class to try her hand at reporting.

“In the Climate Justice class they brought in Coral Davenport, the New York Times reporter,” Levy recalls. “She was so incredible and engaging and so knowledgeable; I really admired her.” So, Levy emailed the Santa Barbara Independent to ask for an internship, describing her interests and her experience communicating environmental issues. She was hired shortly after.

Matt Kettmann, senior editor for the Independent, took special interest in Levy’s ocean and seafood experience. In fall 2015, Levy interviewed a local sports-fisherman to represent the recreational fishing interest in a class debate, she conducted research on seafood retailers and sustainable fisheries as an intern for Salty Girl Seafood during her first year at Bren, and she traveled to Galápagos last summer to collect data on marine protected areas for her Group Project. The Independent prides itself on publishing environmental stories and profiles, but they have not often covered the harbor or the people there. “So Matt said, ‘Let’s do a series about the waterfront community,’” Levy recalls, and “Faces of the Sea” was born.

Levy goes to the Independent office once a week to write and publish her articles. She also covers events or other stories for the paper as needed, but her primary project is “Faces of the Sea.”

“I like talking to people and hearing their stories,” she says. “And what I have found is that when you go in with an open mind to talk to people, it’s really easy to appreciate their stories and who they are and what they’ve done.”

Levy mentioned that her vision for the series is similar to the style of the “Humans of New York” blog. By sharing stories of those in the waterfront community, she is trying to show that the harbor is more than just a harbor, that it’s people and their dreams, their families, and their livelihoods. “I never thought I’d enjoy being a reporter; that never occurred to me,” she says. “But I want to continue to write stories about people and the amazing things they see and do.”

To date, she has profiled an urchin fisherman, a tackle shop owner, an expert on sustainable seafood, and a family of fishermen who have a weekly booth at the Saturday Fish Market. The series will continue until graduation, and Levy hopes that she can continue telling stories and writing professionally beyond.