The holiday marking the birthday of the United States of America unfolds this year with deep divisions among its people over the weightiest of topics — abortion, guns, the events of 1/6 at the U.S. Capitol, rising gas prices and the direction of the nation in general.
How to capture this and gauge your community’s sentiment as the fireworks explode and the flag paraphernalia comes out? Or just document the holiday? Here are some ideas on how to capture this unusual moment in the country’s history.
Short of polling, it’s generally impossible to take the pulse of a community. Instead, break it down into slices.
— Pick a place in your coverage area — a popular park (maybe where fireworks are scheduled?), an outdoor festival, perhaps a community sports event — and use the setting as a framing device for your story.
— Range around your coverage area and ask the same question of very disparate people, either for a collection of print pull quotes (with photos!) or for a short online video. Some possibilities: What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about America right now? What’s one thing you think could help heal the divisions?
— If you have community leaders in your source lists who have different views about the country, ask them if they’d be willing to have a conversation with each other with you in the room as a moderator. Then run excerpts of the conversation on your platforms.
— Look for officials in your area who are eschewing the holiday, like Anamarie Avila Farias, who sits on the Contra Costa County Board of Education in California. Avila Farias posted “Boycott 4th of July” on Facebook after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
— Ask locals if the abortion ruling or any of the other recent jolts in the country’s legal system have affected their Independence Day plans. What about gas prices and airline woes?
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
For a good-news type of story, consider setting it up this way: “Yes, Americans are facing some huge hurdles, but what makes you happy here? Name your favorite things about the United States — the reasons to celebrate this weekend.”
Other ideas in this vein:
— Solicit photos of July 4 displays and expressions from people and run them as a slide show — on your platform and/or on Instagram.
— Ask a few local officials, “What does democracy mean to you?” — and then run the responses below their photos online.
— Plunder your archives if you can, and run a collection of quotes from people in your community in the past (however far back you want to go) talking about the holiday. Reprint excerpts of stories and/or photos from Independence Days past.
— Consider sending a photographer (or more than one, if available) out with a specific assignment: Capture faces illuminated by local fireworks shows. Then create a slideshow of those to run the morning of July 5.
— Ask your readers to take and send in a phone photo that they think represents the United States or the July 4 weekend. Set a deadline of Sunday, then run a selection of them on Monday for Independence Day as a community photo album. (Don’t forget photo releases.)
America celebrates its independence this year as debates rage over personal freedoms.
The nation’s top court last week overturned the nearly 50-year-old nationwide right to abortion, meaning the country will be divided into states that allow the procedure and those that ban or greatly restrict it.
The high court is the most conservative it has been since the 1930s, despite this week’s addition of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who shattered a glass ceiling as its first Black female justice. Jackson helps form the most diverse court in its 232-year history.
Meanwhile, a House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has been holding public hearings that show in vivid detail how close the United States came to a constitutional crisis when Trump refused to admit election defeat.
All of this comes as rising inflation fuels a slump in the broader economy, with businesses raising prices on everything from food to clothing, and Americans face uncertainty with travel.
Airlines that have stumbled badly over the past two holidays will encounter their biggest test yet of whether they can handle big crowds when July Fourth travelers mob the nation’s airports this weekend.
Revelers planning to drive face their own set of challenges, including high gasoline prices. The nationwide average has eased since hitting a record $5.02 in mid-June to $4.86 a gallon on Thursday, according to AAA, which expects prices to continue to ease because of rising gasoline inventories.
Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for its customers’ use. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at email@example.com.