Philadelphia’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, like elsewhere in the country, has had its problems.

Health-care workers have been getting doses for almost a full month now, and later this month, people 75 and older as well as those with high-risk medical conditions will be eligible. But several conditions associated with lowered immune response and possible worse outcomes in COVID-19 patients aren’t on the city’s list. And a partnership with Rite Aid intended to help vaccinate health-care workers has enabled ineligible people to jump the line and get the shot early.

Plus, this week, graphics editor John Duchneskie explains how The Inquirer’s charts and graphs come together.

— Lauren Aguirre (@laurencaguirre,

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Behind the story with John Duchneskie

Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with graphics editor John Duchneskie, who puts together and updates the bulk of The Inquirer’s charts and graphics.

What is a graphics editor and what do you do on a typical day?

A graphics editor’s job is to help direct visual storytelling through information graphics. Typically that would include charts, maps, diagrams, illustrations, design, and tables. On top of that, there is a heavy dose of data analysis. We’re all drowning in data every day. My job is to look at the data, see if there are any stories to tell, collaborate with reporters, editors, photographers, producers, and developers, and find the appropriate visual method to clearly communicate with our readers.

A typical day involves lots of meetings, one-on-one conversations with reporters, working with my graphics colleague Dominique DeMoe, answering somebody’s question about census data, creating and editing graphics for the website and for the print newspaper, and having six spreadsheets open on my screen at any given time. And did I mention meetings?

How did you get into graphic design in journalism?

By accident. In the late ’80s, I was working in the Business News section, compiling the stocks tables. That led to my first exposure to spreadsheets (Lotus 1-2-3, for those of you old enough to remember the world before Microsoft Office). Then one day, the graphics editor asked me whether I wanted to learn how to use a Macintosh computer to draw the daily business graphics. I eventually wormed my way into the newspaper’s art department as a graphic artist. I was lucky that I arrived at the intersection of data and design just as the desktop publishing revolution was taking off. Thank you, Steve Jobs and Roger Tomlinson.

What projects or stories are you proud of that you’ve worked on recently?

A team of Inquirer journalists worked on From the Source: Stories of the Delaware River, a yearlong series about the interconnected watershed we live in. It was a treat to do a deep dive (no pun intended) on an important topic with some very talented journalists from across the newsroom. I even got to spend an afternoon doing a video shoot of pouring untreated Delaware River water into clean Ikea glasses.

What would you say is a common misunderstanding you hear about your work?

This may not fall into the category of “misunderstanding,” but it’s really hard for someone like me who was trained how to design graphics that could take up as much as two printed pages to deliver content that can fit in the tight confines of a phone screen. Online and print are both great in their own ways. But because we have print readers and online readers, we typically create at least two versions of every graphic — one for print, and at least one for online. Depending on the graphic, the online graphic might need three versions: one for your phone, another for a tablet, and one for a desktop display.

What do you do in your free time? Got any good show, movie, or book recommendations?

What is this concept called “free time?” Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been working some crazy hours trying to make sense of this insane year. Some nights, after I’m off deadline, I’ll decompress by sneaking downstairs to watch an episode of The Crown. Mostly, I’ve been listening to music. I have a nice speaker set up in the spare bedroom that now serves as The Inquirer’s graphics bureau. I’ll listen to music while I work, either to relax or to drown out the TV in the living room. The music can’t have lyrics — you try concentrating on your job while the Hamilton soundtrack is playing — so I usually play jazz from the ’50s and ’60s. “Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet” is great if you need a lift. Bill Evans’ The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 is just ravishingly beautiful.

Email John Duchneskie at and follow him on Twitter @jduchneskie.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Always love a good water shot. Thanks for sharing, @elevated.angles!

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You can still volunteer on MLK Day in Philly, even in a pandemic

The pandemic makes the tradition of volunteering on Martin Luther King Jr. Day more complicated, but there’s still lots you can do. There’s a few talks and events you can attend virtually to learn civil rights history and honor King’s legacy. And you can volunteer in person or even virtually, including for the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. Check out our list of ideas here.

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