‘They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us.’ New York Times dedicates Sunday’s front page to COVID-19 victims

This picture taken on May 23, 2020, in Los Angeles, California, shows a woman looking at a computer screen with a tweet by the New York Times newspaper account showing the early edition front page of May 24, 2020, with a list of 1,000 names printed on it, that represents 1% of the lives lost due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, in the US. (Photo by Agustin PAULLIER / AFP)

The New York Times has devoted Sunday’s entire front page to a long list of names of people who have died in the corona virus pandemic, fill six columns under the headline “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,” with a sub-headline reading: “They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us.”

The names and brief descriptions culled from obituaries from around the country.

The all-text list takes the place of the usual articles, photographs and graphics in an effort to convey the vastness and variety of lives lost, according to Simone Landon, assistant editor of the graphics desk, who described “a little bit of fatigue with the data.”

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she said in a New York Times article explaining the project. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

A tally kept by Johns Hopkins University says more than 96,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States.

Times researcher Alain Delaquérire compiled a list of nearly a thousand names from online obituaries and death notices and a team of editors sought to capture the uniqueness of each in a few words: “Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear.”

Tom Bodkin, chief creative officer of The Times, said he did not remember any front pages without images, though there have been pages with only graphics, during his 40 years at the newspaper.


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