Ask Mike: How do I find and tell awesome yearbook stories?
Written by Sarah Scott
With many schools just past that first big yearbook deadline, now is the perfect time to refocus on storytelling. In this week’s episode of Ask Mike, host Mike Taylor, CJE, speaks to two advisers who lead their students to tell great stories.
Tiffany Kopcak teaches her students to eavesdrop.
That’s how the yearbook staff at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, Virginia, got so good at finding incredible student life stories. From profiling a Puerto Rican student settled in their school after Hurricane Maria, to a young woman who participated in a police day camp, their eavesdropping has paid off.
Whenever her staff gets stuck, they’ll spend class time discussing gossip. When they find a story worth telling, they discuss how it fits into their umbrella coverage.
Kopcak and her staff find interesting new ways to cover their school every year, and fresh stories to tell. As Taylor puts it, “Your book is interesting from cover to cover.”
In this episode, Kopcak shares her methods (it goes beyond just eavesdropping), and how she keeps her students committed to finding and telling great yearbook stories.
She shares the benefits and downsides to her “painfully fluid” yearbook ladder, as she put it. They adapt throughout the year, depending on the event and the quality of coverage.
“But it’s worth it to tell a clean and cohesive story,” added Kopcak.
Her staff writes strong, cleanly edited, quote-based stories, and Kopcak shared the method they use to get to the desired result, including bringing in a second faculty member to review stories.
“We actually don’t do the heaviest editing until it’s in proof,” she said.
Bonus! Learn why Kopcak hates the phrase “hard work and dedication” with a burning passion. Be warned: there is some shouting.
Brit Taylor, the yearbook adviser at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida, has been doing yearbook for 26 years. His staff consistently has excellent sports coverage, with interesting, unique angles and interesting storytelling.
One of the ways he leads his staff to tell good sports stories is through enthusiasm. Brit Taylor loves sports, and he educates his staff so they know what their watching.
“The first thing is, you’ve got to go to the game. Period.”
He also sends staffers to practices, and sometimes brings in sports team members to review their stories. Brit Taylor recommends their staff members start out a story with five interviews, even if it ends up being a profile of one player.
“You have to get out and know enough,” he shared.
Brit Taylor shared his advice on how other schools can step up their sports coverage. It starts with photography, and getting good photos during the games. Interviews can be redone, but games can’t be restaged, so it’s necessary to get good photos during that time.
He also cautioned against neglecting certain sports. Get plenty of photos of the school’s bowling team in addition to the football team.
The biggest lesson Brit Taylor wants people to take away: “You have to do your research.”
Before photographing a sport, or writing a story on it, it’s important to educate yourself. Fortunately, it’s easy. Start by watching some sports!
Host Mike Taylor shares an entertaining and informative conversation with both of these knowledgeable advisers. You can listen at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or find this episode, “How do I find and edit awesome yearbook stories?” wherever you prefer to get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.