New Yorker writers reflect on the year’s highs and lows.
For those of us locked down at home, 2020 was often a year of yearning for experiences beyond our doors—and, in the absence of such experiences, a reminder of the power of stories to whisk us away to another world. In The New Yorker, those stories took readers to the bottom of the ocean and into outer space, as well as inside the tumult of a historic year in politics, public health, and the fight for racial justice. For the magazine’s interactives team, 2020 offered continual opportunities to tell these stories with visuals aimed at imparting additional insight and perspective. We produced manysuchfeaturesthis year; now, as we look back, we’re spotlighting some of the interactive stories that provided illumination—and, we hope, some measure of connection, even if only through our screens.
Taub’s story immerses readers in an epic adventure alongside deep-sea explorers attempting to achieve one of the last meaningful records on earth: a journey around the world and to the bottom of all five oceans. To help readers visualize the expedition, The New Yorker’s interactives team extracted the explorers’ geographical coördinates from several hundred daily ship logs, animating each leg of their journey around the globe. Partway through the narrative, an illustrated schematic allows readers to examine the inner workings of the explorers’ submarine, custom-built by the crew to reach unprecedented and perilous depths. As readers discover the wonders of the ocean, including undersea mountain ranges and new species of fish, photographs by Paolo Pellegrin capture the vital work of the crew back at the surface. “The ship and submarine crews had so perfected the system of launch and recovery that, even in rough seas,” Taub writes, “to an outsider it was like watching an industrial ballet.”
Animation by David T. Kofahl
Illustrations by Anuj Shrestha; animation by David T. Kofahl
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin / Magnum for The New Yorker
“In the fourteen billion years between the big bang and the autumn of 1957, space was pristine,” Khatchadourian writes. Now, however, there are millions of human artifacts orbiting the Earth; “we live,” he observes, “in a corona of trash.” If not addressed, high-speed collisions caused by this pollution could mean catastrophe for satellites, and might prohibit our use of near-Earth space. Readers moving through this feature float in a starry sky, periodically encountering bits of junk, as well as video of the technology being designed to retrieve debris and stave off disaster.
Visual and interactive storytelling also put more immediate matters into context this year. Early in the summer, during the historic protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd, Nelson painted a powerful cover for our June 22nd issue. In “Say Their Names,” Floyd embodies America’s long history of anti-Black violence. A reader examining the painting encounters other Black victims of racism and police brutality, learning about the circumstances of their deaths and the often negligible consequences for their attackers. As Nelson told Christiane Amanpour, the cover is “a memorial of sorts, and a history lesson.”
As the coronavirus pandemic peaked in New York City during the spring, The New Yorker embarked on one of the most ambitious multimedia collaborations in its history. For “April 15, 2020: A Coronavirus Chronicle,” nearly fifty writers and photographers spread out across the five boroughs to document twenty-four hours in what was then the epicenter of the pandemic. The story weaves together scenes of doctors and nurses tending to patients; a worker arriving for his shift at a fulfillment center; a restaurateur preparing takeout orders; a woman delivering her son, Christopher, via C-section; and dozens more New Yorkers coping with their new reality. As the reader moves through each vignette, the progression of the day is reflected in the article’s visual presentation. The background color shifts by the hour, from the darkness of midnight to the golden hues of daylight, on through sunset and the radiant city lights of the night. The accompanying photography and video—in their breadth of style, composition, and vibrancy—bear witness to the suffering and resiliency of a city in crisis.
11.50 A.M., Williamsburg, Brooklyn.Photograph by Andre D. Wagner for The New Yorker
10:30 P.M., Sunset Park, Brooklyn.Photograph by David Williams for The New Yorker
6:11 A.M., Bayside, Queens.Photograph by KangHee Kim for The New Yorker
9:58 P.M., Times Square.Photograph by Dina Litovsky / Redux for The New Yorker