Journalist Meg Kissinger from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel came to visit our classroom Wednesday for a discussion on mental illness reporting and how she approached writing about the subject. This week the students had the decision between writing a blog post about this journalist- who writes great articles filled with emotion and imagery of others going through pain- or something about our beat website. And we all know how that websource is doing.
Seriously; this woman can write. Review her work. Reading about some individual using his tongue for cleaning up a floor splattered with vomit will disgust you. Short sentences such as "he went home to die" will push you into thinking, 'dang, that's messed up.' Kissinger has that ‘it’ factor when it comes to writing, especially when she types about mental illness.
Kissinger said that she produced high quality stories because she didn’t shy away from uncomfortable situations. She said that she traveled down to Virginia Tech after their unfortunate shooting and talked with a person who a suspect shot in the leg in a classroom. Kissinger suggested that our class perform in the same way; get as much information as possible from people involved in the chosen subject. Ask that psychiatrist. Don’t be afraid of figuring out the story behind that particular family member with that illness. Letting different but personal voices be heard only makes an article stronger.
Kissinger also developed strong stories due to experiencing her own hardships. She said that she got cancer six years ago. Two of her siblings- one brother and one sister- committed suicide. I learned that we shouldn’t just include other’s stories, but include our own for a little bit as a way of showing others that we empathize with them.
I’m glad that Kissinger found her interest in scripting such stories. I’m also interested that she admitted that there are some times when she thought about stories with lighter moods (I have no idea how she thought of writing about clowns making beer ice-cream). But it really is an inspiration that someone is not just writing, but writing about important issues that the society needs more knowledge about. I have a family friend who has a mental illness; his sister passed away from the same situation, but he survived. And I notice that people treat him differently. So it’s great that there are some people willing to teach others about mental illness and how we should work toward accepting each other; regardless of differences.