October 24, 2012 / Book Organization / Fall 2012

Ladders can change, deadlines do not

Written by Jessica Young

The ladder represents the blueprint for the coverage plans for the year, and those plans can change. Unlike a Jenga tower, the whole book is not going to collapse if you have to move things around. Build your ladder in a way that allows for adjustments, if necessary.

When structuring your ladder, start with the things you must have in the book — title page, table of contents, divider pages, colophon, index and possibly ads. From there, you can estimate the lengths for the people, student life, sports, academics and clubs and organizations sections.

Next, work with your sales representative to plan your deadlines. Then look at your school calendar to determine what material can be completed prior to your deadlines. My plan had my staff completing several student life pages, some academics pages and one divider page in late September. Our next deadline fell at the end of November and was comprised entirely of people pages. This was followed by the 40% deadline in January, which included more people pages and fall sports pages. Our final deadline covered everything else in the book.

My system matches a deadline cycle to each six-week grading period in the semester. The students work in groups of three to four on their assignments, and have mini deadlines to meet during the six weeks. They complete their pages in bits and pieces —body copy, dominant photo and captions, secondary copy — and when the end of the six weeks approaches, they only have fine-tuning left to do.

The students are provided with a calendar that outlines their overall deadline, each mini deadline and what is required. This way, they have a clear visual map of what they need to get done and how much time they have to do it. They do not know that their mini deadlines do not always correlate with our submission deadlines — and I want it that way. They function under the impression that every deadline is do or die and that the consequences for missing one are dire.

Working with my sales representative has allowed me to structure my significant page deadlines with a few weeks to spare, so when students turn in work, we do not have to rush to get it submitted.

For example, students will complete their first deadline mid-September. Our first deadline falls on the first Friday in October. This gives the student editors roughly two weeks to edit and work with students to get their pages to publish quality. We use Walsworth’s Online Design program, and as pages are completed, they are locked and tracked so the editors know exactly how many pages are ready to go.

The last thing to keep in mind is that your pages will be due in flats and signatures. As you plan your deadlines and your ladder, verify with your sales representative that your pages completed for deadline will also meet your signature/flat requirements.

With all of those components in place, you will be well on your way to building a sturdy book with a solid ladder that can accommodate planned and strategic moves.

Jessica Young

Jessica Young, MJE, teaches photography and advises the yearbook and newspaper at Orange Glen High School in Escondido, Calif. Young was named a 2012 Rising Star by the Journalism Education Association (JEA). She is the President of the San Diego Journalism Education Association and was co-chair of the local committee for the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Diego in April 2014. Young also is a member of the Quill and Scroll board of trustees and directors.