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Reporting on public health crises: Jamie Ducharme’s beat from e-cigarettes to global pandemic

Jamie Ducharme could never have predicted the opportunities that would come her way as a reporter. 

Ducharme, who graduated from Northeastern University’s School of Journalism in 2016, is not only a correspondent at Time magazine but also a newly published author. 

Ducharme spoke on Sept. 16 at “Pizza, Press & Politics,” an informal speaker series at Northeastern, to a room of student journalists via Zoom from her cozy home office. She talked excitedly about her journey from working college student to industry journalist. 

Ducharme covers health and science for Time magazine. Not long after starting her beat, Ducharme wrote, “The New American Addiction,” a 2019 piece about the rise of e-cigarette company Juul. It made the magazine cover.

With this front-page story, Ducharme felt that she “made it as a journalist.” Many news reporters know that “there is so much significance to the [Time] cover page because it has become such a cultural icon,” she said. 

Ducharme was soon approached by a literary agent who asked her to write a book on the rise of Juul. The agent had read her cover story. Ducharme was shocked. “I felt under-qualified, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said. Ducharme anticipated that “no publishing company would want [her book],” but she quickly received an offer from New York-based Henry Holt and Company. 

Excited as she was to begin writing, something no one saw coming turned the world upside down — COVID-19.

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“I had to write [the book] while also covering the health crisis,” she said. “I never slept.” Ducharme wrote the book from her home in New York with the city in lockdown — all the while reporting around the clock for Time. “Writing this book was mentally the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she explained.

Ducharme explained that although writing her book was a big stressor in her  life,  it turned out to be one of her greatest accomplishments. 

Her book, “Big Vape: The Incendiary Rise of Juul,” was published in May.

Rebecca Magno

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