Yearbook’s role in high school journalism reporting

header_yearbookWe’ve talked about it before in posts on this site, scholastic media programs need to rethink their structure as the web comes into play. Programs can’t just run as they always have if things are going to work as efficiently as possible. While programs can take many forms, I talk often about how each medium should take on the role of what it does best. I think the web should focus on event previews and recaps, newspapers should work to take on more of a feature-magazine approach, and the yearbook should play to its strength — serving to recap the year that was.

Let’s assume a high school has a yearbook, a monthly school newspaper and a web presence. The program needs to have a discussion about coverage focus for each medium or there will be quite a bit of overlap and redundancy.  While a variety of writing forms can be effectively utilized within each medium, each staff should have a distinct focus when looking at the overall reporting coverage of a program. All three media play a critical role in the reporting coverage of a school. Their roles may look like this:

ONLINE
The school’s web staff should focus its energies on keeping students informed on what’s happening now. The web serves as the best tool to keep readers consistently informed on things that are going to take place and things that just happened. The web is also a great to inform the community of things AS they happen through social media or the site itself. Timely coverage is this medium’s strength.

NEWSPAPER/NEWSMAGAZINE
Let’s face it, unless your school is putting out a daily (or maybe even weekly) newspaper, you’re really more of a magazine. If you come out every four or five weeks, there’s no way you can compete with a website with news. The website can post scores, standings and “what happened” much more timely than you can. My staff sends their newspaper to press on a Thursday for a distribution the following Wednesday. Quite a bit happens in six days. Newspaper “news” should focus on previews with the majority of other coverage devoted to opinions and features.

YEARBOOK
Yearbook, which serves as the historical record of the school, should focus on strong recaps. While there is definitely a place in the book for profiles and features, event recap coverage in the yearbook can take a little extra time and include a little more perspective of how the event played into the year as a whole.

Without coming up with focus coverage statements for each medium, programs often battle over who can cover what when. In reality, that shouldn’t ever be a question because each medium has its strengths in the reporting process and each medium should play to theirs.

If you have a media program at your school, what do each of your staffs focus on when they work to plan their reporting or what have you found that has worked to coordinate coverage?

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 19th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He created The Next 26 and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull and on Snapchat as aaronmanfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

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