NYT Devotes Front Page to COVID Dead

All the deaths are fit to print.

The United States will toll 100,000 losses from the novel coronavirus soon, probably on Memorial Day. The New York Times today devoted its entire front page to listing a thousand of their names.

They explain the project:

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.

Departments across The Times have been robustly covering the coronavirus pandemic for months. But Ms. Landon and her colleagues realized that “both among ourselves and perhaps in the general reading public, there’s a little bit of a fatigue with the data.”

“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” she added. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

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.

Alain Delaquérière, a researcher, combed through various 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. 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 … ”

As noted in a recent discussion, I’m wired to prefer data to anecdote. I find comparison of 100,000 to the deaths from various wars or the population of cities and the like provides a more useful perspective than just a listing of names of people I don’t know.

But I understand why this is an effective means of storytelling. It’s long been said that, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Personalizing helps people connect.

The odd coincidence that this milestone is likely to hit on Memorial Day is interesting and likely to spark some controversy. Flags will be flying at half staff across the country this year to honor COVID-19 victims on a day that is traditionally set aside to honor those who died fighting America’s wars. It will likely spark some reflection as to what constitutes heroism and why we honor some deaths and not others.

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FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:
  2. Kathy says:

    Flags will be flying at half staff across the country this year to honor COVID-19 victims on a day that is traditionally set aside to honor those who died fighting America’s wars.

    It may not be a war, but many on that list are healthcare workers who died fighting COVID-19. It is entirely appropriate to honor them on Memorial Day.

    9
  3. Mu Yixiao says:

    Flags will be flying at half staff across the country this year to honor COVID-19 victims on a day that is traditionally set aside to honor those who died fighting America’s wars.

    This is incorrect. The half-staff order for victims of COVID-19 expires tonight (Sunday) at sundown. The flags flying tomorrow (Memorial Day) are for veterans.

    I have no doubt the timing is intentional, but it’s important to note the difference.

    8
  4. Joe says:

    @Kathy: With the least amount of snark I can apply to this statement, if this is a war time president, these are war time deaths. Nevertheless, I take Mu Yixiao’s point.

    2
  5. JohnMcC says:

    Probably unnecessary to say, but that front page actually contains the names of 1,000 corona virus fatalities. One percent.

    2
  6. gVOR08 says:

    Several weeks ago I commented here about one Richard Epstein, a law professor who took a stab at amateur epidemiology and ended up predicting 500 deaths in the U. S., a total we hit within a week or two. (Yes, 500 total deaths, two zeroes.) He then claimed he’d made an error and he really meant 5,000. He did not point out just how he’d made the error, nor could he, a careful reading of his paper showed no methodology and no calculation. He’d simply pulled a number out of his arse. There was speculation that when we passed 5,000 he’d somehow “correct” it again to 50,000. Haha, like he could get away with that.

    Well, I find he was back a month later with another piece, again at the Hoover Institution website, second guessing Cuomo, arguing that all those old people were going to die anyway, and once again (deliberately) unable to distinguish between forecasts with and without mitigation, “Oh look they said a million and it’s really only….” This led people to look at his old piece and say, “ What? Corrected to 50,000? Didn’t he say corrected to 5,000?” Well, indeed he did, but his 5,000 forecast having been rapidly overtaken by events, it seems he rewrote the paper and redirected the link to the newly revised version, attempting to put his original down the memory hole. The new version said 500 was a typo, he always meant 5,000, and when he corrected it it wasn’t to 5,000, it was from 5,000 to 50,000. Apparently this fraud has been reported to the Hoover Institution and to his Dean, who will no doubt ignore it.

    Why do I mention this? Because this guy isn’t some rando on a RW blog, he’s regarded as one of the leading lights of conservative law. He’s stupid, he’s dishonest, and he’s a highly influential conservative legal scholar. No Republican “intellectual”or pundit should be allowed any presumption of good faith.

    He’s presumably publicly demeaning himself like this (recognizing it won’t hurt him on the Right) because his corporate sponsors want him to. It should be taken as a warning about how hard they’ll be lobbying to open the economy no matter how many olds and working poor die as a result. In a just world he’d never be able to publish again without everybody replying, “Oh, it’s Mr. 500 again.”

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  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    It doesn’t bother me that he plays golf, per se. You can get a lot done, and still get in a round of golf to relax afterward. What bothers me is that he spent two months neglecting fundamentals like tests, PPEs, and ventilators, and then spent all his air time trying to jawbone people into opening.

    6
  8. Gustopher says:

    All the deaths are fit to print.

    Nope, just 1% of them. The little one sentence bios are heartbreaking.

    3
  9. JKB says:

    More useful is the NY Times interactive map showing deaths per million by state. From that map, we see that most of the country is relatively lightly impacted despite the panic pundits and media who reside in the most impacted areas quest to alarm.

    Observations by Mark Perry at Carpe Diem blog

    3. More than two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths have taken place in seven states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California.

    5. The range of per-capita COVID-19 deaths is from 10 per million in Alaska, Hawaii, and Montana to 1,470 per million in New York. The median COVID-19 deaths per million for US states is 110.

    Numerical analysis is a bit clinical, but listing the names of the dead without noting their deaths were the direct result of state policies imposed via threat of government violence to place COVID-19 positive patients in nursing homes with the most vulnerable is just cold.

    2
  10. Pylon says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Of course, most of his golf is done at his own resort, not near the WH, and he rooms his full staff and security there at regular rates. It’s a grift.

    1
  11. Tyrell says:

    @JKB:Is there an accurate analysis of the data for the deaths? Such as age, sex, race, blood type, health issues, residence: that sort of thing. It seems those most at risk are in nursing homes and have serious health problems. Dr. Birx said that the attention needs to be on those who are most vulnerable and risk. Instead the focus has been way too broad and scattered.
    Another way to look at it is that heart disease prevention measures and information needs to focus on young people and middle age people, not on people who are eighty and older. (600,000 annual deaths from heart disease in US.
    And look at Alzheimers. The number who die yearly is around 400,000 or more, every year just in this country. No cure, no effective treatment. Few have not been affected by it. But not a lot of attention from the press. Not dramatic enough? How about it, NYT?
    We are all sorry about anyone who dies.
    In reality, deaths are never prevented, just delayed. The medical workers in NYC and elsewhere have done outstanding work, no doubt. As have nursing home workers and anyone who is caring for their parent at home who is advanced in age and with multiple health issues – a 24 hour job with no pay or benefits. The media needs to tell all those stories too.

  12. steve says:

    The NYT prints dozens of stories every year about Alzheimers. Just one of the very many at the link.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/01/opinion/alzheimers-long-term-care.html

    1
  13. JohnMcC says:

    @gVOR08: And you see, it’s just partisanship. Nothing to concern your pretty little head with.

  14. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    From that map, we see that most of the country is relatively lightly impacted thus far, thanks to preventative measures put in place based on what was happening in the earliest impacted areas.

    FTFY

    Of course, it’s not too late to undo that benefit…

  15. Tyrell says:

    @steve: Thanks for the information and your attention to what I wrote. I will try to access these articles from the NYT; I don’t have a subscription.
    It usually takes someone famous having it before it gets attention. Not much good news about Alzheimers. Reports are that it is moving down the age ladder.
    When I was a child I would seek the NYT whenever we were near a newstand, or bookstore. It was not hard to find. I especially liked their sports section. I have two boxes of them from the ’50s – ’70s. I keep them well sealed and inside. I also kept some of the famous big headline editions.
    We used to take the local paper: morning and evening editions. The last time I saw a NYT print edition was down at the SC beach. There were at least ten coin boxes lined up of local and out of town papers. Now there are 0.
    Times have changed.

  16. Matt says:

    @JKB:

    Numerical analysis is a bit clinical, but listing the names of the dead without noting their deaths were the direct result of state policies imposed via threat of government violence to place COVID-19 positive patients in nursing homes with the most vulnerable is just cold.

    Once again those are NOT state policies. Those are the policies set forth by Trump and his administration.

    https://www.cms.gov/files/document/3-13-2020-nursing-home-guidance-covid-19.pdf

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/23/politics/cuomo-new-york-nursing-homes-coronavirus-patients/index.html

    Once again you’re lying and I’m sure you’ll vanish again like last time.

    we see that most of the country is relatively lightly impacted

    Because most of the country on the map is sparsely populated. It’s the same crap when people try to claim that most of the country is red while ignoring the inconvenient fact that the vast majority of the people who live in this country do so in relatively small geographical areas.