March 30, 2012 / Coverage / Spring 2012

Covering four seasons in yearbook

Written by Kathy Craghead

Putting the “year” in yearbook coverage is a struggle for some staffs. In many publications, the summer months either do not exist at all, or the lonely spread looks suspiciously the same each year. There’s the photo of students leaning like the Eiffel Tower on their trip to France, someone holding a darling orphan on a mission trip and someone a) lifeguarding, b) babysitting or c) sacking groceries.

However, summer coverage does not have to be that limited — or boring. Staffs that want to improve or increase coverage of June, July and August will need to make a commitment, then a plan.

At Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, adviser Scott Vonder Bruegge says the members of The Foundation staff believe in summer coverage, sometimes including up to six spreads in the yearbook.

“If the yearbook is a story of the lives of the kids at your school from one year to the next, then it seems silly to not include summer,” he said. “Schools don’t really close during summer and kids don’t hibernate. Why would a yearbook want to act like they did?”

The summer coverage in the 2011 Foundation from Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis contained a divider and four spreads. Each spread had a sun graphic in the bottom right, and the topic of the spread in the folio on the upper right, informing readers about the stories on the pages.

The summer coverage in the 2011 Foundation from Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis contained a divider and four spreads. Each spread had a sun graphic in the bottom right, and the topic of the spread in the folio on the upper right, informing readers about the stories on the pages.

For spring delivery books, summer coverage naturally rolls over from the events that happen after the final deadline. In fall delivery books, coverage needs to pick up after the school year ends. The coverage opportunities are limitless.

There are school-sponsored events, such as athletic camps, summer school and fundraisers. There are co-curricular activities such as language immersion trips and band camps. There are summer-specific activities such as part-time jobs and vacations.

And then there’s the very best part of summer, when teenagers are just being teens:  sleeping late, lounging by the pool, keeping their friends just a text away. It is this area of summer coverage that some yearbook staffs seem to forget, but that many teens can identify with most.

No matter what events of summer a yearbook staff is looking for, the top requirement for better coverage is planning, so the spreads about summer go beyond posed vacation photos and Q&As about favorite ice cream flavors.

For some staffs, the plan will need to be detailed and broken down week-by-week, with specific assignments given to photographers and reporters. As always, the activities director’s calendar will be invaluable in finding school-related events. But it is the staff members themselves who will need to discover the secrets of summer coverage. Some will need more guidance than others, of course.

In this age of Facebook and Timeline, the job of finding cool summer events to cover is much easier. The conversation that has to take place is how the staff members are going to communicate about the photo opportunities, and how they are going to gather the information for subsequent stories or alternative coverage.

Teens like to stay up at night and sleep in until late morning or afternoon. This summer spread in the 2011 Foundation from Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis explores the summer schedules of four students with quotes, graphics and photos.

Teens like to stay up at night and sleep in until late morning or afternoon. This summer spread in the 2011 Foundation from Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis explores the summer schedules of four students with quotes, graphics and photos.

Obviously, staffs that include everyone in the brainstorming and planning conferences are going to have broader coverage. For some staffs, the summer coverage plan will have to include actual assignments:

  • Find 10 students who have cool summer jobs.
  • Interview two students who left the United States for a reason other than vacation.
  • Find two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors who went on mission trips with different churches.
  • Interview three male and three female students who worked for their parents.
  • Find a contact person for each of the camps on the summer schedule.

One summer assignment that works well is the “81 (or however many) Days of Summer” idea file. Each staff member is given 81 notecards hole-punched to fit on a ring. They record one event, one cool experience they heard a student talk about or one idea for summer coverage each day. At the end of the summer, the editors will have hundreds of ideas for coverage. Staff members may want to record the Days of Summer electronically, which is certainly effective, but there’s something about having those cards to deal out and discuss that works also.

Some of these assignments can be due before summer vacation begins:  find three teachers who have summer jobs; or, research who/what groups have reserved the gymnasium for each week in June and July. Others could be due the first day of school.

Remember to not neglect those last, frantic days of the final weeks before summer ends. Great coverage opportunities abound:

  • Freshman orientation and tours
  • Teacher room preparation
  • Student leadership retreats and meetings
  • Fall sports team tryouts
  • Wrap-up of school construction and cleaning

Having staff members stay in contact with each other over the summer is key in providing a way to make sure nothing noteworthy goes uncovered. The process might be a weekly meeting of editors, or something as simple as the exchange of phone numbers so editors and photographers can talk and text.

Other staffs might not need as much specific guidance.

“The best approach we’ve found is to give a very simple assignment to our photography staff each year,” Vonder Bruegge said. “We urge them to ‘tell the story of the people in their summer through pictures,’ which gives them a reason to carry their cameras all summer.”

If the summer months are covered correctly, deciding what coverage to include could become a yearbook staff’s best problem of the year.

The place to begin is by looking at the last few yearbooks — and immediately discarding ideas and photos found there. Challenge the staff to design a spread with photos and stories that are new, and possibly unique, to the school. Only after looking at what has been done in the past, and accepting the task of doing better coverage, can a staff improve.

And finally, the adviser plays an important role in the staff’s commitment to include the whole year in the publication. Vonder Bruegge says his belief that summer coverage is important trickles down to the staff members, who now embrace the concept.

“Kids won’t own summer coverage, or any coverage for that matter, if they don’t believe that their own adviser believes their voices are significant,” Vonder Bruegge said.

No matter the philosophy or the amount of coverage of summer, planning now for coverage then is the secret for real 
“year” books.

Kathy Craghead

Kathy Craghead is a retired yearbook adviser from Mexico High School in Mexico, Mo., where the yearbook earned national honors. She was named the JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2003, and the yearbook earned state and national honors. She is a staff writer for the Mexico Ledger newspaper.