As the national death toll from COVID-19 approaches the stunning 100,000 milestone, The New York Times is devoting its entire Sunday May 24 front page to a list – a partial list – of the dead.
And the grim, powerful impact of the newspaper’s unusual approach might have contributed to yet another round in the ongoing feud between President Donald Trump and MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough.
Morning Joe tweeted today that it has scheduled a special Sunday episode at 7 a.m. “as the New York Times Dedicates Page One to All Those Who Have Lost Their Lives in the Pandemic.”
Trump, who spent part of today golfing at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, has not tweeted yet about the Times’ Page One or the special Morning Joe episode, though he did take time to post yet another reference to the discredited conspiracy theory surrounding the 2001 death of a staffer in Scarborough’s Congressional office.
New York Coronavirus Death Toll Heading Down, Saturday’s Total The Lowest In Two Months
In a tweet today, the president urges the use of “forensic geniuses!” to “keep digging” into the case, calling Scarborough “”a Nut Job (with bad ratings).” (Trump also retweeted at least six posts from conservative politician John K. Stahl, who routinely mocks the physical appearance of potential VP candidate Stacey Abrams and House speaker Nancy Pelosi with derogatory nicknames.)
Trump’s November rival, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, however, retweeted the Times’ front page, writing, “This is jarring — and a heartbreaking reminder that the death toll we see in the news is so much more than just a statistic. Every single one marks a future cut short and a family and community that will never be the same.@DrBiden and I are keeping them all in our hearts.”
Under the stark headline “U.S. Deaths Near 100,000, an Incalculable Loss,” with the subheadline, “They Were Not Simply Names on a List. They Were Us,” the Times lists the names and brief biographical descriptions in a roster that spans six columns and encompasses the entirety of the page. Despite the editorial space provided, the page has room for only about 1% of the nation’s coronavirus deaths. No photos, illustrations or other graphics intrude on the list.
In a Times Insider column to be published in the paper Sunday, the paper’s John Grippe writes that the front page came about as Times editors were “planning how to mark the grim milestone.”
According to Grippe, Simone Landon, assistant editor of the newspaper’s Graphics desk, “wanted to represent the number in a way that conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost.” The column quotes Landon as saying, “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. We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”
Landon, Grippe writes, “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 Times researcher scoured online obituaries and death notices, compiling a list of nearly a thousand names. A team of editors and three graduate student journalists read the obits and “gleaned phrases that depicted the uniqueness of each life lost.”
A few examples: “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 … ”