2020 Breaking News, Medium Newsroom finalist

The coronavirus pandemic

About the Project

The coronavirus hit Massachusetts like a sudden wave. A superspreader event at a conference on Boston’s waterfront in late February — one of the first in the nation — changed the state forever in an instant.

The effects weren’t felt until two weeks later, the approximate gestation period for COVID-19. First dozens, then hundreds of people became sick as the virus swept over an unsuspecting public in the first throes of what would become one of the worst outbreaks in the 50 states. As if that wasn’t enough, the stock market cratered, sending shivers through the economy locally and abroad.

As these dual threats hit, the Globe sprung into action, pivoting to cover the event both in real-time and as an investigative story.

We unfurled layouts, processes, and destinations on the fly to distill the complex, fast-moving bursts of information into navigable destinations for readers.

We didn’t just kick up some clunky live blog with a third-party tool. Our digital graphic artists and Web producers created a well-designed experience on the fly to capture the stream of news in one place. That file proved to be not only one of the most-read stories of the year (so far), but also one of the highest recirculation pages on the site.

We also translated public data into forms our readers could understand. Our audience experience team swiftly built a coronavirus dashboard, taking all the available data from the state and displaying it in a series of interactive graphics that told the tale of the virus’s spread.

We kept the public informed on up-to-the-minute developments by carrying livestreams of state and city officials, distributing the news by breaking news e-mails, push alerts, and on social media, reaching readers everywhere we could find them.

And we created Coronavirus Now, a daily newsletter that collected the day’s most relevant news and data.Sign-ups immediately surged into the thousands, and would ultimately cross 200,000 in the weeks ahead.

By structuring our news like this, we not only provided blanket coverage at a time of crisis, but also set the underpinnings that would last for the next few months.

That wasn’t all. We pursued a deep dive into the main source of the outbreak even as the news broke, deploying six reporters to find out what happened at the Biogen conference in late February that sickened roughly 100 people.

The tale — delivered in an amazing 36-hour turnaround — was one of the first authoritative stories of a superspreader event, an investigation done on breaking news time.

While the speed of the reporting and writing was impressive, it was also essential — this swift portrayal of a virus run amok raised alarm to the risk. If the Globe hadn’t moved so fast, necessary precautions to combat the crisis may have been delayed.

For these reasons, we humbly submit The Boston Globe’s coronavirus coverage for the OJA in breaking news.