• Yearbook contents what’s appropriate – what’s not. A good yearbook program is one where students learn sound journalism principles, enjoy working on the book and create a book that the school community buys. Many popular books, however, are journalistically compromised in ways that are really unnecessary. Some staffs fear that their book will lose popularity if they eliminate traditions such as baby pictures, dedications and senior wills.
These things may be very important to the students, but the yearbook is not the place for them. Yearbook advisers and school boards are legally responsible for what appears in the book. The following suggestions are based on standards established by journalism organizations. Decide for yourself which items are appropriate for your program.
A Publications Council
Many advisers need a formal means of handling controversial issues, establishing editorial policies and resolving personnel problems. A publications council can effectively deal with these matters. The council consists of the editor and adviser of each publication: newspaper, literary magazine and yearbook. Some publication councils also include the photography adviser, photo editor and an administrator. All matters that cannot be handled by the staff are brought before the council where each member has one vote.
This is not a censoring body. It is a forum for airing problems so that the responsibilities of major decisions (e.g., the removal of a student from the yearbook staff ) rest with the council instead of the adviser.
Lists and surveys
Poll random samples of the student body to discover the top radio stations, athletic shoes, cars, songs and groups. Avoid popularity polls for favorite teacher, cutest smile and so on. Cover opinions on products, movies, music, foods, and experiences that convey the flavor of the year.
Don’t fight the tendency to group events as they happened. The seasonal or chronological approach works. Readers find it logical and natural. In some ways, a seasonal book is easier to produce because the pages are submitted in sequence. Submitting pages sequentially and in complete flats and signatures is especially important for color pages. It also simplifies page tracking.
Staffers take their assignments a bit more seriously when their names are attached to their work. Position photo credits and bylines consistently. Credits can appear either under the picture or at the end of the captions. Bylines can be placed at the head or at the end of the story, often printed in italics.
Fads and fashions
Date your yearbook. Record what students wear, where they hang out, what they consume, what they play and what they drive. Capture the look and feel of the year.
Features on individuals
Some students in your school have stories that are truly special. They may excel in athletics, acting, academics or music. Maybe they have fascinating hobbies, jobs or talents. Maybe they’ve overcome a handicap or struggled with a serious illness. All are valid feature stories.
The mini-mag is a great way to tie up loose ends in coverage. This format solves the dilemmas of covering small clubs, minor mishaps, human interest, short facts and little additions.
The yearbook needs a complete alphabetical listing of all people, advertisers, clubs, events, classes and sports. This eliminates the reader’s frustration of locating a subject. Remember, your book is also a reference book.
Table of contents
The table of contents is another readers’ aid to help them locate subjects in the book. The design of the table of contents should come from your theme. There is no need, however, to label it “Table of Contents.”
Feature a picture that captures the tone of your theme. Avoid pictures of the school without students. Caption the title page photo. Other necessary information includes: theme phrase, name of the book, school name, complete address, zip code, volume number, school phone number, and student enrollment.
To help identify the content of each spread, place a brief description beside the page number. The right page folio identifies the section, the left page folio specifies the content. (Most people search for sections of a book while looking at the right hand pages).
32 Cross CountrySports 33
Recognize the people who made the year go more smoothly by thanking them at the end of the colophon. Don’t forget janitors, administrators, secretaries, parents, photographers and anyone else who helped along the way. It means a lot to people, and it is good public relations.
The last one to five pages of the book, depending on the theme, should wrap up the theme. Bring in a new perspective on the theme and school year. Make it relate to the entire student body, not just the graduating seniors. Develop a closing twist on your theme phrase. Don’t place any important element close to the gutter on the last page. The endsheet is glued to it, reducing the amount of available space on the right side of the page.
The most legally sound method of removing students from the yearbook staff is one with two appeal levels. If the publication council recommends expulsion to the superintendent, the student has a right to an appeal. Obviously the most painless way to deal with removal is to have the student resign. Try this first. The resignation should be submitted to the publications council.
The yearbook is a history and reference book. As a history, it is a record of one particular school year. As a reference, it contains recent portraits with identifications. Baby pictures don’t fulfill either function. From a practical standpoint, by using baby pictures, you run the risk of losing or damaging someone’s irreplaceable photo. If baby pictures are a “sacred cow” in your book, however, consider tying baby pictures to feature coverage. For example, create features focusing on athletes who have played ball together for a dozen years. Feature a student who began skating at the age of three. In these kinds of stories, run two photos, then and now. Another place you may use baby pictures is in senior ads. By doing this, you generate revenue. It is important that you advise parents to send copies and not the original pictures.
Teacher recognition should be featured in the faculty section. The yearbook is produced by and for students. Devoting full pages or spreads to dedications detracts from the student orientation of the book.
A senior will is an inside joke at best. At worst it is libelous. The big problem is that you never know what some messages really mean. Avoid lawsuits by these temptations to grind axes or reveal all.
It is not inappropriate to have a memoriam in the book, but they must be handled consistently. Adopt a policy that is tasteful and restrained. Students become extremely emotional over the death of a classmate. As a result, decisions made at the time of a death are not always appropriate. Treat ALL deaths in the same manner whether natural, accidental, suicide or homicide. It is recommended that the portrait be included with class pictures with a simple black line around it. A grey screen can be printed behind the name with the year of birth and death. If a student should die after the portraits have been submitted, the change can be made on the proof.
The Editor’s Page
The final pages of the book should be used to wrap up the theme, not to give the editor’s final words. Letters from the editor written from an “insider’s” perspective are rarely understood or appreciated by the student body. An editor’s page can give the impression that it is his or her book, instead of the student body’s book.
Individual Athlete Shots
Handled correctly, the group shot is an adequate method of recording the names and faces of team members. Avoid individual shots of seniors, just because they are seniors. Instead feature athletes who have excelled. For example, a secondary coverage module on all-conference players could include statistics, quotes and action photos highlighting the athletes’ accomplishments.
Avoid scenic views of the California coast if your school is in Iowa! Picture the area where your students attend school. Also, politicians, dignitaries or celebrities should not be pictured unless they visited the school or unless they have some direct relevance to your community. (If a celebrity visits your school, highlight preparations for the event as well as the event.) When covering current news, show how the events affected students and include their reactions.
Pictures of empty hallways, stadiums, lockers and desks don’t belong in the yearbook. A yearbook is not a “still life.” Photo studies may be included in coverage of a photo class or as part of a literary and art magazine or section. The book records stories about people. Students want to see pictures of them. Don’t waste time and effort with pages that lack student appeal.
Determine your total budget and divide by the number of pages in the book. This simple math problem gives you the price per page to produce your book. Unbound autograph pages, sold by Balfour for a nominal charge, are more cost efficient than blank pages. If you have a summer/fall delivery, sell students the autograph tip-ins right before graduation.
• Increase coverage with fun features
Every school presents boundless opportunities for features stories. Look around for humor, intrigue and fascinating facts.
- Luxuries we can’t live without
- Sweet 16 – stories on becoming 16
- The perils of orthodontia
- Handicapped students and how they adjust
- School rivalry from the other school’s point of view
- Adventures of riding the bus
- Big and little sisters/brothers
- Student rock bands
- Glasses and color contact lenses
- Student versus machine
- Junk food
- Autographs – how cars reflect students’ personalities
- Out to lunch – where students go off-campus to eat
- Movie marathon – what movies students have seen more than once, twice or twenty times and why
- Music videos – worst, best
- Grounded – the hows and whys
- I bet you didn’t know . . . little known facts about faculty or students
- Murphy’s laws for your school
- Student laws – the rules we live by
- How-to guides
- Sunny-side up – early risers, swim practice, paper routes
- Excuses that do and don’t work
- Never again – mistakes you learned from
- Lessons you never learn
- Losing things
- The hazards of borrowing and loaning
- The perfect date
- Academic nightmares
- Eat, drink and be wary – a guide to school food
• Good things in small packages. In a small yearbook, space is a particular concern. The staff is challenged to find design techniques that are attractive and conserve space without compromising coverage. What follows are a few ideas for creating a lean book with good looks.
- Organize the book into as few main divisions as possible. For example, the faculty and academics sections can be combined easily. Run faculty pictures across the bottom of the spreads and cover the students across the top.
- Design the division pages to carry content such as candid photos with well-researched captions. By doing this, you begin section coverage.
- Keep portrait sizes within reason. Faculty pictures can be smaller than seniors. Large portraits of ANYONE are not necessary.
- Group all underclass portraits together alphabetically. Although there will be resistance to this method, there are benefits. It’s easier to find students’ pictures since you don’t to know their class. Also, features written for these pages do not have to apply to a particular grade level.
- Avoid repetition, i.e., individual pictures of athletes in addition the group shot and similar photographs of the same event.
- Keep white space under control. Use one-pica or half-pica interior spacing throughout. Be sure most pictures flow to the exterior margin. Don’t be afraid to bleed large pictures.
- Avoid diagonal arrangements or any irregularly shaped elements that create unusable surrounding white space.
- Crop pictures carefully to enlarge the center of interest.
- Avoid trimmings and fillers such as cartoons, drawings, decorations, etc. Use that space to tell more of your story.
- Place advertisements or sponsors on pages throughout the book.
No amount of planning can compensate for a book which is really too small. Most small books, however, improve in quantity and quality of content when they’re carefully controlled. A small book with good pictures and writing is far better than a big book carelessly compiled.
• Consider single-page design when coverage is a challenge. Another way to conserve space and serve your readers is single-page design. There will be times when editors feel that it is necessary to devote an entire spread to a small group, even though student participation does not warrant two pages of coverage. When designing these pages, make sure to respect the basic rules of design. Use an eyeline or graphic device for linkage. Place a dominant photo on each page. Be careful not to tombstone headlines by running two headlines side-by-side. The reader can become confused and read the two headlines as one.
Public displays of production are encouraged Highlight completed spreads. Ring a bell when a spread is finalized. Put on party hats and play a fight song on kazoos. Celebrating accomplishments keeps everyone motivated.