When the shooting broke out in Parkland, Florida, last February 14, Miranda was already underway with research for an essay about A Beautiful Mind, a 2001 film about the schizophrenic mathematician John Nash. Continuing with that worthy project would’ve been the easiest way for her complete the assignment. But in the wake of Parkland, Miranda’s motivation to understand the power of media representations of mental illness gave her the courage to change her approach midstream and to dive into a controversial political issue. Her choice paid off with the compelling and timely essay you are about to read. In Miranda’s words, “It is possible to start somewhere and then end up in a completely different place, and that is sometimes the best way to develop a project.”

On March 24, as students across the country gathered for the March for Our Lives, Miranda was making the last round of revisions to her prizewinning essay “Representations of Mental Illness Within FOX and CNN: The Parkland Shooting.” It too can be understood as a form of civic engagement. In this paper, Miranda presents new data she collected about news coverage of the Parkland school shooting and uses the kind of critical information literacy skills that are essential to responsible citizenship. In doing so, she contributes to both scholarly and public conversations about gun violence and mental illness.

Her portfolio makes the connection between scholarly and public discourse explicit when she describes how she drew on knowledge from her research to respond to an acquaintance’s Instagram post blaming gun violence on mentally ill people in especially derogatory terms. Miranda reflected, “With news media constantly projecting this image of the mentally ill as violent and committing crimes, it is no surprise that this post showed up on my newsfeed.” I am thrilled that Miranda’s essay was recognized by the editorial board, but if it generates more thoughtful conversation about this topic through the WR readers she reaches here, that will be the best prize.

WR 150: Representing Illness