Great Ideas

Freshen up July Fourth coverage with these interactive tools

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Reprinted from GateHouse Newsroom

How will your newsroom cover July Fourth festivities this year? If your answer is limited to a print event preview, photo gallery or a quick video of the local parade, I challenge you to get creative and add something new to your coverage.

It's easy to fall into a coverage routine when it comes to annual events like the Fourth of July, but these recurring holidays and celebrations are actually the ideal opportunities to experiment with digital tools that allow us to interact with readers. You'll be more comfortable with a new tool that you can later incorporate into more challenging coverage, and your readers will enjoy a fresh take on the same old holiday stories.

Here are some interactive coverage ideas to get you started:

1.  Juxtapose of parade scenes

Dig in to your photo archives and find old photos of parade scenes through main streets in your town. Take note of the angles and distances these photos are taken from, and then do your best to recreate these photos during this year's festivities. Then, try your hand at KnightLab's easy-to-use JuxtaposeJS – this tool allows readers to slide back and forth between the two images and compare the past and present of July Fourth in their community.

For more on using Juxtapose, check out our step-by-step guide.

2.  Fireworks hyperlapse

OK, so not interactive, but worth including here for its cool factor. If you haven't already experimented with the Hyperlapse phone app (iPhone only) for making timelapse videos, Fourth of July fireworks would be a fun way to start. Videos made in Hyperlapse can be easily posted to social media, or saved to your phone and uploaded to your site or YouTube.

3.  Map of Fourth of July events

Instead of just listing some of the top local events in an online event preview, why don't you add an interactive map? Take a look at this map of Boston Fourth of July fireworks spots as an example.

Google Maps is a popular tool for creating interactive maps, but if you want to try something new, here's a list of other robust mapping tools.

4.  Live stream parade coverage

I'm a big fan of live streaming event coverage – it gives readers an opportunity to follow along and ask questions in real time, and those interactions are invaluable. Plus, both Periscope and Facebook Live videos can be embedded on your site and viewed later for any readers who didn't watch the live stream.

If you know in advance you'll be recording a popular holiday event, make it known ahead of time through your site and social media platforms so that anybody who won't be attending the event in person can plan to tune in with you and watch.

5.  Get readers to share their festivities

Create a hashtag for your community's July Fourth celebrations – for example, if I created one in Austin, it might be #ATXJuly4 – and then promote it well in advance, letting readers know to tweet and Instagram their festivities using that hashtag for a chance to be featured in print or online.

Create your own Instagram image with Canva.com

#ATX

Take it a step further by embedding a Twitter timeline that pulls tweets from the hashtag you've created, so that readers know their tweets will appear on your site in live time. On Instagram, let followers know that the best photos will be featured on your account.

What interactive or unique ideas will you use to mix up your annual Fourth of July coverage? Tweet at us @GHNewsroom and let us know – we'd love to pass your great ideas on to our readers.

Lizzie Jespersen is the content initiatives coordinator at GateHouse Media, where she works with newsrooms to implement industry best practices. Before joining GateHouse, she worked as a freelance writer and photographer for Texas-based news publications and nonprofits.

Jespersen, July 4

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