‘The Ongoing Aftermath’ Focuses on Challenges of the Mental Health System
By Gwen Girsdansky
Columbia, Mo. (Dec. 7, 2012) — Christie Megura, BJ ’12, won fourth place for feature writing in the William Randolph Hearst Foundation‘s Journalism Awards Program competition. She will receive a $1,000 scholarship for her winning article, “The Ongoing Aftermath.” The Missouri School of Journalism receives a matching grant.
Megura’s story highlights the challenges of the mental health system. The piece, told through the parents’ eyes, is about a son who killed his wife and four of his six children.
It was published as part of Megura’s capstone requirement during the spring 2012 semester. She enrolled in the Project 573 section, which is dedicated to telling the Missouri perspective of a national issue.
A photojournalism major, Megura originally wanted to tell the story with pictures. But Carol and Jerry Wood, the parents, were uncomfortable with that direction but agreed to do a written story. The narrative provided a way for the Woods to help others understand their family and the difficulties they faced in navigating the mental health system.
“I tried approaching it from a human perspective,” Megura said. “I felt a lot of pressure to do the story justice. I wanted to do right by Carol and Jerry. It was very painful for them to talk with me.”
“The hardest part for me was really learning the writing skills I wasn’t comfortable with and organizing hours and hours of interviews,” she said. “I had incredible support from all the Project 573 people.”
The Wood’s story was part of the reason why Megura decided to participate in Teach for America upon graduation. She is currently teaching seventh grade in Phoenix.
“I wanted to take a more proactive stance before I had to report on these terrible tragedies happening to all of these different families,” she said.
Megura was one of 142 students from a record 76 universities who participated in the program’s first competition of this academic year.
Ward Bushee, editor and executive vice president of the San Francisco Chronicle; Marty Kaiser, editor and senior vice president of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and John Temple, the managing editor of The Washington Post judged the feature writing section.
The Hearst Journalism Awards Program is conducted under the auspices of accredited schools of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication and fully funded and administered by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. It consists of five monthly writing competitions, two photojournalism competitions, three broadcast news competitions and four multimedia competitions, with Championship finals in all divisions. The program awards up to $500,000 in scholarships and grants annually.