Readers of the Sunday New York Times were somewhat started today to see that the front page contained no pictures or graphics—instead it was just a list of names of people who dies of the COVID-19 virus. The pager took on the look of 19th century newspapers before they were able to carry photographs. What follows is an abridged explanation of why the Times decided to depict the pandemic in this manner.
Instead of the articles, photographs or graphics that normally appear on the front page of The New York Times, on Sunday, there is just a list: a long, solemn list of people whose lives were lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
As the death toll from Covid-19 in the United States approaches 100,000, a number expected to be reached in the coming days, editors at The Times have been planning how to mark the grim milestone.
Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Graphics desk, wanted to represent the number in a way that conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost.
Putting 100,000 dots or stick figures on a page “doesn’t really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country,” Ms. Landon said. So, she came up with the idea of compiling obituaries and death notices of Covid-19 victims from newspapers large and small across the country, and culling vivid passages from them.
A team of editors from across the newsroom, in addition to three graduate student journalists, read them and gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost:
“Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear’ … ”
“Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages … ”
“Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army … ”
“Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer … ”