On the Front Page, a Wall of Grief
For Bill Marsh, a print graphics coordinator who helped oversee the execution, the digital concept worked equally well in print. “The fact that we can create something with half a million dots that is visible and readable all in one piece, on one sheet of paper, that people can scan and ponder — it’s made for print, in a way,” he said. “It seems natural for the front page.”
That page has been used to visualize the breadth of the pandemic before. When Covid deaths in the United States reached 100,000 last May, the page was filled with names of those we had lost — nearly a thousand of them, just 1 percent of the country’s toll at the time. And as that number approached 200,000, the lead photograph on the page showed the yard of an artist in Texas, who filled his lawn with a small flag for every life lost to the virus in his state.
But unlike the previous approaches, Sunday’s graphic depicts all of the fatalities. “I think part of this technique, which is good, is that it overwhelms you — because it should,” Mr. Gamio said.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the Graphics desk has been working continually on what editors internally call “the State of the Virus,” an effort to provide visuals that capture the defining moments of this story. The goal of this particular visualization was to add context to a fluctuating death count: April 2020 felt like “the sky was falling,” Mr. Gamio said, but this winter, the graphic shows, has been markedly worse.
“There is just a certain numbness, I think, that is normal human nature when this has been going on for so long, but we’ve tried to just keep reminding people of what’s still going on,” Ms. Leatherby said. “And I think something striking about this particular piece that we were trying to drive home is just the sheer speed at which it was all happening.”