March 30, 2012 / News / Yearbook Tips

A Yearbooks Blog Q&A with Melissa Falkowski from Stoneman Douglas

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

The Yearbooks Blog loves talking to advisers who are doing things to keep the yearbook relevant in their school. Recently we got a chance to chat with Melissa Falkowski from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Falkowski has been the yearbook adviser at MSD for seven years, and is currently working on her master’s degree in journalism through a program from Kent State University.

What is it about yearbooks, and the job of being a yearbook adviser, that appeals to you?

“There’s something about yearbooks that is just timeless. Yearbooks will always be around, you know. It’s a memento that kids take with them when they leave here. There is just something about them that has more permanence than something like Facebook.”

What types of things are you doing to keep the yearbook relevant in your school?

“Well this year we integrated QR codes. We’re always trying to add that multimedia effect. We used to have a CD supplement. The QR code thing is really cool. Every spread in this year’s book has a QR code. We have a Vimeo page. We’re making slideshows in iMovie.  We also launched this year a new entity, an entirely online publication, made by my yearbook students. It was called MSD Eagle Landing.”

And it’s entirely done by yearbook?

“Yeah, our newspaper is still printed. So this is something we kind of tried to pioneer. It’s been somewhat successful. To me, I like my kids to be busy. So this was sort of like adding extra focus for them. They’re focused on taking a couple extra pictures and making everybody write a couple extra stories.”

What’s some of the best advice you’ve received as a yearbook adviser?

“To go to conventions and expose my kids to other things. That coupled with the advice of letting go. It’s really hard to do sometimes, but you have to let it be their publication. It’s not about me. It’s about the kids.”

If you were giving out the advice, what are the most important elements to making the yearbook appealing and relevant to students today?

“There are a lot of factors. Determine what’s current in terms of design and photography. You really have to look at trends in publishing, like shorter articles and modular units. Readers want their information in shorter bursts. The best way to see if you are staying with those trends is to pick up award-winning books and look at them to see how they’re doing it.”

Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is a Web Content Specialist for walsworthyearbooks.com and yearbookhelp.com, as well as a regular contributor to Idea File magazine. He's been a writer and editor for Walsworth Yearbooks for the past 13 years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.