Jonas Lekevicius

designs and builds digital things.

Colors used

  • Democratic Primaries
  • Conflict with Iran
  • Trump’s Impeachment
  • Coronavirus

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Notes on the methodology: each 2020 New York Times front page has been annotated by single-theme stories that have consistently appeared for more than a week. Minor stories at the bottom of the front page have not been annotated. Coronavirus-related stories are not further split into subtopics (e.g. health, economics, or politics) because New York Times themselves don’t. The usual double-line marking hasn’t been used for Coronavirus, because articles often touch on multiple subtopics.


Overview of all weeks

Before delving into more detail about each week, it’s worthwhile to take a bird eye’s view at the year so far, and how the news coverage transition happened on macro scale.

The beginning of the year showed the usual cycle: there is usually one long-term story (Conflict with Iran for the first two weeks, Trump’s Impeachment for the following three), but this story almost never fully covers the front page. As the story resolves, something else fills the void — in this case more focus on the Democratic Primaries race.

Coronavirus does not fit this usual cycle. Starting with early March, almost every front page is exclusively covering the pandemic. These are not usual times — and this project explores these unusual New York Times front pages.

Below, you can read a Week by Week analysis, highlighting what topics where the most prominent each week.

Week by Week

Week 1 Jan 1 - Jan 5

The first big story of the year was the airstrike killing Gen. Suleimani, and the resulting Conflict with Iran.

Week 2 Jan 6 - Jan 12

Conflict with Iran dominated the headlines, with a lot of worry about a possible escalation to war. Iran downed a passenger jet.

Week 3 Jan 13 - Jan 19

As it de-escalated, Conflict with Iran disappeared from the headlines. The biggest news of the week was the Senate taking up Trump’s Impeachment case. New debates in the Democratic Primaries race.

Week 4 Jan 20 - Jan 26

With most news covering Impeachment trial, the very first mention of Coronavirus appeared on the front page: “Fear of Pandemic Rises” mentioned “at least 3 people dead”. First case in the US, and lockdown in Wuhan.

Week 5 Jan 27 - Feb 2

Trump’s Impeachment news about witness blocking competed for attention against Coronavirus. US restricted travel from China.

Week 6 Feb 3 - Feb 9

Iowa caucuses in Democratic Primaries and Trump’s acquittal in Impeachment trial dominated this week. Coronavirus news consistently appeared on every front page.

Week 7 Feb 10 - Feb 16

From this week on, no new larger stories emerged. Sanders won New Hampshire in Democratic Primaries, and the world focused on China battling the outbreak.

Week 8 Feb 17 - Feb 23

Debates, and Sanders won Nevada in Democratic Primaries. Most of Coronavirus coverage was focused on Diamond Princess. Concerns over the threat of pandemic were raised.

Week 9 Feb 24 - Mar 1

More debates in Democratic Primaries. Coronavirus coverage increased: Italy in lockdown, Pence tasked with leading the virus response force, and a big stock dive.

Week 10 Mar 2 - Mar 8

Biden won Super Tuesday in Democratic Primaries, Warren and Bloomberg left the race. Slight increase again in Coronavirus coverage.

Week 11 Mar 9 - Mar 15

This was the week when Coronavirus decisively took over the news. Italy’s lockdown, stocks tumbling down even further, WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Week 12 Mar 16 - Mar 22

Coronavirus coverage turns to the US. Shelter-in-place orders, FED cutting interest rate to zero, and early discussions of a stimulus package.

Week 13 Mar 23 - Mar 29

An exceptional week with every single article on the front page covering Coronavirus. Senate approved a $2T stimulus package, massive jobless claims, US became the country with the most cases.

Week 14 Mar 30 - Apr 5

Another single-topic week, with almost all stories focusing on Coronavirus. Even more job losses, grim death estimates, New York overwhelmed with cases.

Week 15 Apr 6 - Apr 12

Coronavirus maintained complete hold over the front page. What would be headline news during normal times, Sanders dropping out of the Democratic Primaries and making Biden a presumptive nominee, only got a sliver of the page.

Week 16 Apr 13 - Apr 19

With Coronavirus cases still increasing rapidly, coverage turned to reopening, and who would be in power to command it.

Week 17 Apr 20 - Apr 26

More Coronavirus-covered front pages. Topics included unattributed deaths, comparison between states and Trump pushing suspect cures.

Week 18 Apr 27 - May 3

Coronavirus coverage continues. Reopening and expected shrinking of the economy were the most common threads.

Week 19 May 4 - May 10

Coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our lives so much that it is unavoidable in nearly every story. The only article that broke the trend was about the Justice Department dropping Flynn’s case.

Week 20 May 11 - May 17

While no story can compete with the hold Coronavirus has over the front pages, Flynn’s case appears on three of them.

I will keep this page updated throughout 2020. To get notified about project updates, follow me on Twitter here.