Let's get back to Holland. It's the small lakeside manufacturing town in Michigan where we have spent a week. The picture above was taken 25 years ago, and it is part of a very important aspect of the city today.
A few days ago I mentioned the difficulty but also the necessity of forming working judgments based on partial information -- and then continually refining judgments as more info comes in. This is the by-definition predicament of journalism: our work is the best version of reality available by deadline time. If there's no deadline, you're doing something else. But continual re-assessment is of course also part of the scientific process, of business decisions, of "permanent beta" experimentation, and of life as a whole.
As we begin our planned city-by-city set of reports for "American Futures," we're doing this in a more exposed-than-normal way. Usually for Atlantic articles I'd have a distinct research-and-interviewing stage, with my own private hypothesis-testing, and then wait until I'd reached deadline time (or, as my colleagues know, way beyond the supposed deadline) to suggest how the pieces fit together. Now we're showing our work as we go.
In that spirit, I've already mentioned several of the factors most striking about Holland on first exposure -- its very strong local manufacturing base; the goods and bads of its highly religious, still Dutch-themed self-image and culture; the effects of a large migrant-worker and immigrant presence; the goods and bads of influential and very rich local industrial families; etc. For now I'll talk about one other: the seeming health of its small-town downtown.