By May 2021, the number of COVID-19 deaths was growing on a daily basis. It became obvious it was only a matter of time before Argentina reached the much-feared, symbolic number of 100,000 victims.
How should we tell that story on our Web site? How could we reflect the loss of life and the suffering of the families behind those tragic deaths?
Those two questions were the subject of numerous meetings in our newsroom. We wanted to use innovative storytelling that could showcase the impact of the loss behind the number.
As we were approaching the 100,000 deaths, we discussed different ways of telling the story. We wanted not only a visual display that could illustrate the drama but also to put faces and names behind the story.
We began working on two parallel ideas.
1. Counting the losses
One guiding theme was that we needed to illustrate the scale of the loss. With that in mind, we developed a visualisation that would demonstrate the tragedy’s magnitude with an unprecedented sensory experience. To this end, we used a database with the record of each death and its exact date throughout the pandemic.
After that, a vertical timeline was generated in which all the victims were mapped, each one represented with a bright star on a black background. As the reader navigates the visualisation, zooming in or out, a greater or lesser concentration of stars can be seen, depending on the number of deaths reported at different times in 2020 and 2021.
For every 10,000 deaths, a sound was automatically triggered to perceive the rate of growth of the number of dead. It created a tragic journey of senses. Through the images of the stars and its concentration during the worst time of the pandemic, plus the “ping” of the sound every 10,000 deaths, we created a piece with profound impact that reflected the tragedy.
2. The stories behind the story
The second idea was that we needed to tell the stories behind the numbers, the faces that would make our readers relate to the loss experienced by families. For this, we identified families that had lost more than one person. In these cases, we named one of the stars and published in-depth pieces with their stories.
At 5 p.m. on July 14th, 2021, Argentina reached the tragic number of 10,000 deaths. We immediately published our production, with huge success. It was one of the most-read articles of the day. The next day the print edition reproduced the piece on the cover of the newspaper, providing a historic and unprecedented design.