September 19, 1996 / Fall 1996 / Staff Management

Lights, Camera, Yearbooks!

Written by Susan Smith

Behind the Scenes of Walsworth’s Electronic Field Trip

With cameras, backdrops and a few hundred feet of cable, Walsworth’s paper storage warehouse was turned into a live television set Nov. 5 for an electronic field trip sponsored by the Indiana Academy at Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.

Two one-hour programs were broadcast from Walsworth’s finishing plant, giving schools across the country the opportunity to “tour” the printing facilities electronically.

Broadcasts at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST meant schools in all parts of the country could participate. Using a special 800 number, students were encouraged to call in and ask questions about the printing process.

The kids seemed to like the interactivity, and that really made it worthwhile,” said David Massy, Walsworth’s instructional products manager. “This gave them the opportunity to speak with the people who make their book.”

The broadcasts were viewed at nearly 60 sites in 17 states, many of which brought together several schools at one site.

The electronic field trip resulted from seven months of planning, which started in April at the JEA/NSPA Spring Convention in San Francisco.

Some advisers were talking about the benefits of taking kids to the plant, but how cost-prohibitive it is,” said Mark Kornmann, the project director at the Indiana Academy. “It seemed so natural for an electronic field trip.”

The Academy sponsored three field trips last year, to the Field Museum and Jane Adams Hull House in Chicago, and to the Aeronautical Model Museum in Washington, D.C.

Kornmann said the Academy’s objectives for this trip were three-fold. The first was to give students an understanding of the printing process. The second was to focus that understanding on the various procedures involved in yearbook production, including what happens to pages, covers and photos, and how technology has changed the industry. The third was to demonstrate the wide variety of careers available in the printing industry.

Along with these objectives, Walsworth also saw the benefits of the national exposure afforded by the field trip.

We’re proud of what we do here and felt it was a great chance to share,” said Massy.

Massy said the partnership with the Academy was a good fit.

They were familiar with us as their publisher, but they also know how actively we participate in the educational side of the business.”

And, according to Massy, the field trip was a way to confirm that reputation.

We don’t view relationships with our customers purely as a business opportunity, but as a way to take part in the educational process,” he said. “This was our chance to live up to that and to reach a lot of people with a cutting-edge program.”

Marilyn Weaver, acting chair of the Journalism Department at Ball State, joined the project in its initial stages. After helping Kornmann develop the project objectives, she began work on the original script.

In ensuing meetings I realized that I couldn’t do the whole thing myself, so David and I divided responsibilities for the script,” she said.

Weaver and Massy served as co-hosts of the broadcast, a job that neither had counted on when they initially got involved.

I didn’t understand at the beginning that I would be on camera,” said Weaver. “That was the biggest challenge for me, since I was not trained to do that.”

In July, camera crews set up at all three of Walsworth’s facilities in Marceline and Brookfield, Mo., to film the pre-taped portions of the program.

These video segments were then combined with the live portions of the broadcast for a seamless look at how a yearbook is put together, from receipt of pages in the plant to delivery of the finished book.

Filming the live broadcast was a logistical challenge for everyone involved. The hosts and crew had to plan their progress carefully throughout the printing facility so it would not interfere with the on-going yearbook production. This first-hand view was at the heart of the broadcast’s success.

I thought the most educational part was when the hosts were one-on-one with Walsworth employees,” said Kornmann. “It made things come alive for people.”

This is a wonderful format,” Weaver agreed. “You can show a lot of detail and there are so many options.”

Kornmann said reaction to the field trip was encouraging.

I’ve had very positive feedback, more than any other field trip,” said Kornmann. “I’ve talked with both students and advisers, and most understand the process better now. It was great to see a project that started with a conversation turn into a 50-minute program.”

Susan Smith