De-sudsing a yearbook soap opera

Written by Amanda Ruehlen

Our staff always joked that yearbook could easily be a successful reality TV show. Can’t you see the advertising teaser now? “Find out next week, will Katie lose her cool when the editors decide not to use her template, and how does Jake take it when Emily rewrites his copy?”

How to tell one of your best friends since kindergarten that the template she designed isn’t quite usable, or the boy who you used to share cookies with in preschool that he went a little too far with the Transparency tool can be a painful experience for any editor-in-chief. Often our fellow staff members and editors are some of our closest friends, and if not, they will quickly blossom into this role once the year gets rolling. We have all found ourselves walking on eggshells when filtering the quality of our friends’ spreads in order to prevent hurt feelings, because we know we will be hanging out with this same person this weekend.

Yet, we must come to the realization that it isn’t worth compromising the quality of our yearbook just to spare feelings. Letting our standards slip just to keep our friends pleased is not fair to the rest of the staff or the entire school. Address this potential issue early on to prevent drama amongst the staff by having everyone sign a pact during the summer planning session. Get staff input on what to include in this pact, and hang it in your yearbook room for a constant reminder. Consider mentioning some of the following issues when drafting your pact:

  • Everyone will accept constructive criticism.
  • Do not take yearbook-related emotions towards someone outside of the yearbook room.
  • Be sensitive when editing or criticizing other’s work.
  • The entire staff is working towards the same common goal;therefore nothing should be taken personally.

It is important for you as the editor-in-chief to use tact when handling a potential soap-opera situation. If you detect an article that is way below standard, do not completely blindside them by rewriting the article yourself and giving them a nice little surprise in proofs when they realize it isn’t their work. Instead, be proactive and plan several mini-deadlines that include a series of peer editors (for both design and copy) before the plant deadline. This creates a buffer period that gives staff an opportunity to rewrite or redesign before you or another editor steps in for damage control.

Also, know which staff members need what type of guidance. For example, suggest a color palette or a family of fonts for them to use before they begin designing, or assign them one of the strongest writers for peer editing.

Avoid the temptation to go softer on your friends, and accept the fact now that you will have staff members angry with you at some point (or points) in the year. Take a deep breath, and get ready for a few bumps in the road. Keep your eye on the light of the end of the tunnel, and let having friends on staff be an advantage rather than an obstacle.

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Amanda Ruehlen