Behind the scenes of NYT’s ‘Places to Go’

Amy Virshup, travel editor of The New York Times.

Photo contributed

Behind the scenes of NYT’s ‘Places to Go’

SALISBURY — Amy Virshup, travel editor of The New York Times, spoke about the newspaper’s “52 Places to Go in 2024” digital presentation and how the list is put together at the White Hart Inn on Saturday, Jan. 20.

The event was sponsored by the Scoville Memorial Library, and the library’s Karen Vrotsos acted as moderator.

The proceedings suffered from computer difficulties. The desired web page appeared for a few seconds. Then the screen went blank and the cycle started again.

This didn’t faze Virshup.

She said the process of assembling the annual list of destinations starts right after Labor Day, when correspondents, bureau chiefs and photographers are asked to submit nominations for 52 places.

No. 1 this year is “The Path of Totality, North America.”

From the Times: “From the beaches of Mazatlán, Mexico, to the rugged coves of Maberly, Newfoundland, the sky will be the stage on April 8 as a total solar eclipse sweeps across North America. This year, the moon will be near its closest point to Earth, resulting in an unusually wide swath and long-lasting totality.”

“It’s so exciting,” Virshup said.

She was asked if she was going to Mazatlan.

“I wish,” she replied. “I’ll be in Vermont.”

Virshup said that the 52 places are not rankings per se, except for the top spot.

“No. 1 is a standout. Everything else has to have a spot.”

What makes a destination worthy of inclusion?

“We really focus on news value” when sifting through the hundreds of nominations.

For instance: Paris made the list, not because it’s Paris, but because in 2024, the city is hosting the Summer Olympics, a celebration of 150 years of Impressionist art, and the scheduled reopening of the Notre Dame cathedral after a fire in 2019.

Yamaguchi, Japan, made the list because it offers travelers something different than popular and crowded destinations such as Kyoto.

Once the nominations are in by the end of September, the Times travel staff gets busy “whittling” hundreds of entries down to 100 or so.

Then they go through it all again.

Virshup said the final decisions are arrived at by consensus, with the quality of the photographs being a critical factor.

Asked what happens to the photos that don’t make the cut, Virshup said they are stored in the Times’ database.

She pointed out that the Times’ photographers have to shoot both horizontally (preferred format for desktop computers) and vertically (for cell phones), or submit photos that can be cropped either way.

The Times list hasn’t always had 52 destinations. In 2006, the list had 16 places.

The Times went to 52 places in 2014.

“Every year we try to improve it.” This year’s version allows searching the list by category.

Keeping on top of the list isn’t easy, she continued. Of the articles that come in, she said “everybody files two times as long” as needed.

Asked how the COVID-19 pandemic affected travel in general and the Times Travel section in particular, Virshup said the Times stopped the print version of the section when pandemic restrictions on travel kicked in. She added later in the discussion that the paper does not plan to revive the print Travel section.

During the pandemic, the Times “tried to explain to people what they could and could not do” as regards travel.

The Times assembled a list of places people could go to, and kept it updated for 18 months.

Asked if events overtake publication, Virshup pointed to Quito, the capital of Ecuador and one of this year’s destinations.

Not long after the 2024 list was published online, Ecuador’s president declared a state of emergency in response to a wave of criminal violence.

The Times added an explanatory note and warning to the story.

“That’s something we can do digitally that we can’t do in print.”

Latest News

The Creators: An interview with filmmaker Keith Boynton

Keith Boynton, left, with Aitor Mendilibar, right, the cinematographer who shot “The Haunted Forest” as well as “The Scottish Play” and “The Winter House.” In the background of is Vinny Castellini, first assistant director.

Submitted

Keith Boynton is a filmmaker who grew up in Salisbury, Connecticut. He attended Salisbury Central School, Town Hill School, and Hotchkiss. He has made numerous feature films including Seven Lovers, The Scottish Play, The Winter House, and is just wrapping up a new film, The Haunted Forest, which is a horror/slasher movie. Boynton has made numerous music videos for the band Darlingside, and for Alison Krauss. He is a poet, a playwright, and comic book art collector.

JA: This series of stories The Creators focuses on artists, their inspiration, and their creative process. Keith, what was the seed that got you started?

Keep ReadingShow less
Millerton director is an Oscar nominee

Arlo Washington in a film still from the Oscar-nominated short "The Barber of Little Rock."

Story Syndicate

John Hoffman, a Millerton resident, has been nominated for his film “The Barber of Little Rock,” which he co-directed with Christine Turner, in the Best Documentary Short Film category at the upcoming 96th Academy Awards.

Distributed by The New Yorker and produced by Story Syndicate Production in association with 59th & Prairie, Better World Projects, and Peralta Pictures, “The Barber of Little Rock” explores the efforts of Arkansas local hero Arlo Washington, who opened a barbershop at 19 years old and, with a mission to close the racial inequality gap in his community, went on to found the Washington Barber College as well as People Trust Community Federal Credit Union. Washington’s goal is aiding his primarily Black neighborhood, which has historically been underserved by more prominent banking institutions.

Keep ReadingShow less
Gone With The Winsted: 
The Civil War in The Litchfield Hills

President Lincoln by William Marsh, 1860.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1861, following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the United States presidency on a platform to prohibit the legal slavery of African Americans, seven southern states seceded from the country, and the American Civil War began.

While no battles were fought on the soil of Connecticut, Peter C. Vermilyea has gone to lengths to detail the political climate of Northern communities and military recruitment efforts in the early years of the conflict in a new book from The History Press, “Litchfield County and The Civil War.” Vermilyea, a history teacher at Housatonic Valley Regional High School and the author of “Wicked Litchfield County” and “Hidden History of Litchfield County,” will appear at the David M. Hunt Library in Falls Village for a discussion Saturday, March 2, at 2 p.m.

Keep ReadingShow less