From Lamplighter to TIME Magazine: an Interview with Jamie Ducharme

By Erica Moore ’20, Lucas Coriaty ’20, and Jillian Weinstein-Price ’22

Jamie Ducharme’s debut TIME Magazine cover story, September 30, 2019

The cloud of vapor below the bold white letters on the front cover of this week’s issue of TIME magazine is eye-catching. The headline reads “The New American Addiction: How Juul Hooked Kids and Ignited a Public Health Crisis.” A long-term issue that has been intensified in recent months, the subject of vaping is riveting, yet it is made even more exciting for the Derryfield community because the article was written by one of our own: DS alum Jamie Ducharme ’11. With this feature, Ducharme debuts her first cover story of her two-year-long TIME career. The Lamplighter staff was able to nail down this new celebrity for an interview on the piece itself, its creation, and our journalist’s own personal story. 

Some products are defined by a single company. Band-Aids are actually adhesive bandages, and a Kleenex has become synonymous with any tissue. Today, the same can be said for JUUL, the e-cigarette that today controls 50% of the alternative smoking market. However, it became clear as JUUL took a hold of its market that the product was not predominantly being used as an alternative to tobacco, but rather a new introduction to nicotine for millions of impressionable young people around the country. The trend has only gained momentum since JUUL’s 2015 release, but has been marred by controversy from the beginning, from accusations of marketing to children to the first deaths attributed to e-cigarettes. Today, nearly every high school student knows someone who uses a JUUL, and that startling fact is what drove Jamie Ducharme to write a long-form piece on the subject.

Jamie Ducharme covers health for TIME Magazine

“[At TIME,] most writers have a niche,” says Ducharme. For her, her niche has recently become vaping. A journalist who reports primarily on health issues, she had been working on smaller articles on the vaping phenomenon for months. As the issue became more prevalent nationally, so did her interest, leading to a pitch for a full-blown feature article that she started in July. With recent news developments, the article was adapted to be focused more on the current public health crisis, and one week before the article was set to come out she was told it would be on the cover as a breaking news feature. 

 For this cover article, Ducharme’s research included hours and hours of phone interviews, plus traveling to places like San Francisco to speak with executives at JUUL, and Washington, D.C. to interview public health officials. It is experiences like these that Ducharme says make her job so exciting. 

As a journalist, there are both challenges and rewards to her work. She talked about the frustrations of writing so many words for each piece, only to have half of them cut during the editing process. It can also be difficult to find sources who are willing to go on the record. For the article on vaping, for example, she had a hard time finding high school students whose parents would allow them to talk to her. 

“I remember getting papers back from [now retired English teacher] Mr. Anthony, and he’d write, ‘What were you thinking?’ in the margins.”

Jamie Ducharme

On the other hand, she says that the best part of her job is “talking to people who are smarter than me.” She is passionate about her career, and it shows in the work she produces.  

It is common for students to have an idea of what they would like to do when they are older, but many people change these ideas as they progress through their education. For Ducharme, though, journalism was always the plan. She laughed as she told us it was hard for her to believe that her dream worked out. She maintains that Derryfield’s rigorous writing program prepared her well for her job as a reporter. In addition to being very comfortable with her writing skills, some of her teachers’ critical feedback helped her develop the resilience and thick skin needed to handle her TIME editors’ frank comments. “I remember getting papers back from [now retired English teacher] Mr. Anthony, and he’d write, ‘What were you thinking?’ in the margins,” Ducharme laughed. 

Back when she was attending Derryfield, Ducharme was very involved in student publications such as Lamplighter and Excerpt, the literary magazine. In college, she went on to major in journalism and intern at Boston magazine. In retrospect, however, she realizes that it is not necessary to major in journalism like she did in order to have a successful career in the field. Ducharme wants aspiring young journalists to know that they are many educational paths that can lead to a job in the media. 

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