There’s a strong argument that this past year was the single busiest in the 170-year history of The Times. Never has society been more in need of independent journalism — and never has The Times worked harder, more bravely and more creatively to deliver it:
1. The Times was relentless in covering the coronavirus outbreak. In the vacuum left by the federal government, we launched our most ambitious data-tracking effort ever. We provided the first county-level data and compiled authoritative databases on nursing homes, food-processing facilities, prisons and colleges (https://nyti.ms/2REMLcU).
The open-sourced data (https://github.com/nytimes/covid-19-data) has been cited in more than a hundred peer-reviewed scientific papers and by federal agencies. It’s been leveraged by other news organizations and by Google to display dashboards alongside search results.
We illuminated the astonishing spread of the virus (https://nyti.ms/2RHN8DJ) and, as vaccines were developed, we tracked the process and science (https://nyti.ms/3xbgx8d).
2. In covering the election, The Times improved its signature forecast — known as “the needle” — to adapt to unprecedented changes in voting (https://nyti.ms/3527ISj).
The Times is the only media organization to track results by precinct and differentiate among vote types for real-time display. David Shor, a political data scientist, called the needles “the most technically impressive piece of quantitative political journalism in the last decade.”
It delivered the clearest, most consistent perspective. The Times was the first to indicate Biden was in position to win Georgia. Amid misinformation in Pennsylvania, it provided concrete evidence he was winning there. During the Senate runoffs in January, the forecast showed Democrats on track to control the Senate hours before the races were called by others.
3. As the Capitol riot unfolded, The Times kept readers informed through live coverage by journalists on the scene (https://nyti.ms/3g60y5H). We sent 18 push alerts to our audience. We assembled a minute-by-minute timeline (https://nyti.ms/3gfpckF) and an immersive visual narrative to make sense of the chaos (https://nyti.ms/3zeXvzN). Our visual investigation showed how the police response broke down by obtaining never-released recordings of radio traffic (https://youtu.be/0pe241gW0dQ).
4. During a year in which Americans confronted racial injustice, we investigated how the police killed Breonna Taylor (https://youtu.be/lDaNU7yDnsc) and examined the forces that allow these tragedies to repeat (https://nyti.ms/3pCNbwZ). To commemorate the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre we recreated a defining part of history, using archival materials to provide a new level of detail to truly grasp what was lost (https://nyti.ms/3cwTrkq).
5. The Times continued to elevate countless other urgent issues that few were talking about. While New Delhi’s poor air quality is well-known, disparities based on class or circumstance aren’t well understood. Few researchers have collected this data and many residents are unaware of the risks. The most harmful pollutants are commonplace, legal and largely invisible.
We took the unusual step of performing the research ourselves. We followed two children, Monu and Aamya, and carried precision pollution sensors. Scott Murray, a prominent data visualization practitioner, called it “the finest piece of data-driven visual journalism I have seen, ever, hands-down.”