Corona Chronicles: New York Times Front Page–Tribute to Victims of Covid 19

May 24, 2020–The New York Times honored the lives lost to the coronavirus in a powerful tribute spread on its Sunday front page.

The newspaper paid tribute to the thousands of lives lost by filling their front page with the names of the victims and parts of their obituaries. The headline read, “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,” followed by the subheading: “They were not simply names on a list. They were us.”

Though the names fill the whole page and continue onto three additional pages, the tribute highlights just 1 percent of the country’s total losses.

As of Sunday morning, the newspaper reports that the total number of deaths is nearing 100,000 as at least 97,059 people have died from COVID-19 related illness.

Simone Landon, assistant editor of the Times’ Graphics desk, said she wanted to front page to represent the number of losses in a way that “conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost.”

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she said, “The Project Behind a Front Page Full of Names” — the newspaper published the story to explain how the tribute came evolved. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

In order to find names of the victims, Alain Delaquérière, a Times researcher, relied on sources online for obituaries and death notices with COVID-19 written as the cause of death. He compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. Of their process to create the tribute, the Times stated that a team of editors and three graduate student journalists, read them and collected phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost.

One listing reads, “Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer.” Only text of each name and obituary blurb was used. The pages did not include any images.

Chief Creative Officer Tom Bodkin, who has been with the newspaper for 40 years, said this was the only time he recalls no images being used on the front page. “This is certainly a first in modern times.”

Marc Lacey, National editor, said the tribute was aimed to be something that “people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through.”