Oliver Laughland, US southern bureau chief: It was someplace alongside the 700-mile night-time drive from Tampa, Florida, to my residence in New Orleans that I spotted filming the Wherever However Washington sequence was turning into one of many hardest assignments in my profession.
Hours earlier, my colleague Tom Silverstone and I had interviewed a conservative radio host spreading baseless conspiracy theories about Covid-19 to a crowd of at-risk, Donald Trump-supporting senior residents. We had been compelled to make a pointy exit, and obtained caught in the midst of a robust thunderstorm that drenched us by means of. Fortunately, we’d managed to maintain the digicam dry and protect the footage, however the entire day grew to become a precursor to the remainder of our two and half month lengthy journey by means of America.
Fiery interactions, pervasive disinformation and mammoth automobile journeys grew to become normality. Alongside numerous nasal swabs, tons of of disposable face masks, and seemingly limitless nights modifying the movies over Zoom on more and more tight deadlines, whereas making ready for shoots within the coming days.
It was not solely an immense logistical problem and a continuing battle to determine info, however an eye-opening journey right into a bitterly divided nation throughout an important election in a era.
Tom Silverstone, senior video producer: For a lot of months, I’d been confined to creating brief movies by means of Skype – fuzzy webcam interviews that make it exhausting to go deep right into a story. So it was with some aid, and a little bit of a trepidation, that Oliver and I, together with our video-editor colleague Noah Payne-Frank, who relies in London, got the go-ahead for the sequence.
Making an attempt to embody how a complete nation feels about its election is difficult at one of the best of occasions. America’s deep complexities, measurement and variety have at all times made singular narratives exhausting to search out. However the pandemic made all the things much more troublesome. As we travelled from state to state, we discovered empty streets and cancelled public occasions, and few political occasions to attend – notably on the Democratic facet because the get together toed a stricter, safer line on the pandemic.
This meant that canvassing public opinion grew to become a more durable process and we needed to manage nearly each component of every episode, days – typically weeks – beforehand.
OL: It was clear all through our journey that two diametrical forces have been underpinning this election and it was important for any viewer looking for to grasp the state of US politics to come across each in our movies.
We made a dedication to go to as many numerous communities as attainable to look at how Joe Biden’s candidacy was considered, and interrogate his platform as finest we may. We have been fascinated with how progressive politics and quickly diversifying populaces in as soon as conservative strongholds may tip the end result of the election, prompting journeys to Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.
However we have been additionally decided to robustly interact with the post-factual, conspiracy-tinged world ushered in by the Trump presidency, in addition to to carry him accountable for the quite a few coverage failures of his tenure.
TS: 4 years in the past I filmed our 2016 model of the sequence and watched as Trump efficiently motivated his base with cultural and racial narratives to create anger and division.
This time, what Oliver and I encountered was much more excessive. At mainstream Republican occasions we got here into contact with teams just like the Proud Boys – the far-right “western supremacists” who now patrol Maga [Make America Great Again] marches throughout the nation. We interviewed Republican candidates operating for Congress who pushed baseless conspiracy theories tied to QAnon.
After years of Trump repeating cries of “faux information”, his rallies have change into hostile locations for reporters, and we have been typically met with deep mistrust. On one event a small group of his supporters adopted us again to our automobile, labelling us “agitators” as we tried to movie their public occasion. It didn’t at all times really feel protected.
However away from these rallies, we discovered individuals who have been interested in two reporters roaming throughout the nation, keen to talk to us about their lives. We met unemployed manufacturing unit staff in Ohio, let down by Trump’s damaged guarantees; evangelical Christians in North Carolina, loyal to the president regardless of his transgressions; and progressive Latina Democrats trying to flip a traditionally conservative Texas. After 4 years of Trump, this can be a nation in a passionate and ceaselessly offended debate about what it was, what it’s – and what it may very well be.
OL: We ended the sequence because the information networks ultimately known as the election for Joe Biden, acutely conscious that this was removed from the top of the story.
The stunning occasions in Washington final week, a mob invasion of the US Congress, solely serve to emphasise this additional. Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud alongside 4 years of extremist rhetoric and coverage have essentially altered the material of American democracy. And the top of Trump’s presidency is much from the top of Trumpism.
So Tom and I’ll proceed to supply new Wherever However Washington episodes, ranging from Biden’s inauguration later this month. We need to study if the forty sixth president will ship for the communities he promised, what efforts he makes to revive religion in establishments, and what the long-term legacy of Trump’s 4 years in workplace might be. All of it begins from day one, when Biden’s desk might be landed with a public well being disaster, a humanitarian catastrophe on the southern border, and a bunch of different nationwide and geopolitical points stemming from the previous 4 years.
We’ve been blown away by the help from Guardian viewers within the US, UK and around the globe, and appreciated the handfuls of encouraging emails and direct messages despatched to us over the course of the sequence.
We’d love to listen to extra solutions about the place to go to subsequent, the form of tales you’d prefer to see us interact with. We’re eager to go to new areas of the nation and revisit lots of the communities we frolicked with final yr, and we hope you’ll proceed with us all through the journey.