April 22, 2019 / Podcasts

Ask Mike: What sets these yearbooks apart from the crowd?

Written by Shiloh Scott

There are some yearbook staffs who continually impress, year after year. But how do they do it? Mike Taylor, CJE, host of Ask Mike, sat down to find out how. In this podcast episode, he interviewed the editors of three outstanding yearbooks.

You can listen to their interviews on the new episode, ”What Sets These Yearbooks Apart from the Crowd?” It is available at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.


The yearbook at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida, is good. Very good. In fact, they’re one NSPA critique away from the All-American Hall of Fame. So the pressure is on for their staff. Taylor sat down with Editor-in-Chief Shayne Watson, Sports Editor Kieran Riley and Design Editor Bridgette Hahn to discuss what they do to keep their yearbook program strong and winning awards.

The foundations are simple: good writing and good photos.

“Every story that I read, I found so interesting,” Watson said. “I think when people get the book they’ll actually be interested in reading the stories this year.” The three leaders agreed their staff’s writing skills come from – at least in part – yearbook adviser Britt Taylor’s strength as a writing teacher.

Another strength: their organization. They use Google calendars to make sure people know where they need to be. Their weakness: communication. Halfway through the year, the editors had to get the writers and photographers together because they weren’t communicating effectively. The photographers didn’t know what kind of photos writers needed for their story.

Team bonding is an important part of Fusion, which is run by the students. After big deadlines, they’ll all go out to dinner together.

J.W. Mitchell

Taylor also spoke to the co-EICs of Stampede, the award-winning yearbook at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Florida.

Lindsey Haskins and Stephanie DeVlieger shared how their program stayed strong despite moving through several advisers over the course of a few years. (Full disclosure, one of them left to be a Walsworth Yearbooks rep.) Their current adviser, Susan McNulty, CJE, came in with no journalism experience and won both a CSPA Crown and NSPA Pacemaker her first year. McNulty is now on her fifth book.

The editors have an important role to play in their yearbook program’s continued success. They all respect each other, which Haskins believes is key.

“I think it all starts with a connection between the staff, like from the staffers to the editors-in-chief. Because, at the end of the day, when the book is published we still need to have that connection and still be classmates and friends,” she explained.

Palm Harbor University

The yearbook editors at Palm Harbor University High School in Palm Harbor, Florida, keep accumulating knowledge. Editors-in-Chief Chloe Ballestero and Anna Tam were handed down great information from the previous EIC, and they’re currently passing it on to junior editor Natalie Tajeddine.

They attribute their continued success to their hard work. They admit there have been nights they were kicked out of the school by the janitor, or only got two hours of sleep. The editors agree it was worth it – they wouldn’t want to cut corners and have it cost them a Crown Award.

“Sometimes making deadlines is a struggle for us because we don’t want to just submit crap,” Ballestero said. But they know that all those little changes are what make their yearbook special.

Listen for yourself

These eight intelligent young women share more insights and ambitions in their interviews. Be sure to check it out wherever you get you podcasts so you can prepare next year’s staff before the current editors graduate!

Find Taylor on social media with Twitter handle @yrbkmiketaylor. Don’t forget to use #AskMike!

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Shiloh Scott

Shiloh Scott was the Digital Marketing Manager for Walsworth. They enjoy working in a variety of mediums, from print to broadcast to social media. Shiloh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.