September 20, 2017 / Coverage / Fall 2017 / Idea File Magazine

Spice up assigning beats by hosting a draft day

Written by Emily Pyeatt Arnold, CJE

Whether your yearbook is organized in traditional format, chronologically or a combination of the two, an effective beat system ensures complete coverage throughout the year. Spice up beat selection by hosting a draft day to motivate your staff to get off the sidelines. Collaboration tools such as Trello can take beat management and communication on your team to the next level.


Pre-game preparations must begin with the staff identifying possible beats for the year. Make sure to include all sports, clubs, classes and programs brainstormed when planning the ladder.

Next, you need to establish a method for displaying each of the beats for the draft. Trello can allow you to create boards for your team for every beat.

Prior to draft day, editors can establish lists within Trello that the staff members should be expected to update throughout the year. These lists can include contact information, student members, important events and even feature story ideas. Posting all this information on Trello allows each member of your team access to beat information all the time. If you have multiple publications, staffers may share these beat boards to collaborate and communicate about coverage.

You can put staffers’ names in a bowl for drawing purposes, or take their mug shots and put them in the bowl. Let an editor draw staff members’ names for the order in which staffers will select beats.

Next, you need a printed staff roster to be able to draw names for the drafting order.

Once the pregame preparations are complete, you are ready for the pep talk.

Get out the whistle and clipboard and remind staffers that complete coverage is their responsibility. Coverage is more than an email. It is attendance at every event, every meeting, every opportunity possible to get the complete story of that group on campus.

Ask editors to share their favorite sports-themed or inspirational quotes to help staffers realize the ball is in their hands. The success of the book depends on the quality of their coverage.

Bring the staff all together for a chant and then allow them time to check out all the beats to rank their favorites for their potential selections. You might consider establishing some guidelines depending on the size of your staff. For example, perhaps you want each staffer to have at least one sports beat and one academic beat.

Go all out

The next step to make draft day a success is to plan a staff spirit day. Encourage staff members to dress in college gear or jerseys. Of course, food doesn’t hurt. Popcorn and other game-day snacks help set the mood. As staffers walk into the room, set the tone by playing NFL music such as NFL on Fox.

Game time

To kick off the event, project Trello on the screen in front of the class or reveal the draft board you created while staff members review their top beat picks.

An editor can draw staff member names for the selection process to start. The first name drawn gets the first pick.

As staffers make beat selections, the editor assigns them to that Trello board and changes the board color so staffers know that beat is assigned.

Once all staffers have selected their first-round draft picks, all names get thrown back into the bowl or helmet so the process can begin again until all beats are drafted.


Use the energy created from the draft to allow staffers to get to work immediately. Staffers should look up contact information for sponsors, advisers, coaches and teachers to make introductions right away.

Staff members can then begin to update their beat boards in Trello with schedules, events and other helpful information. Using a program such as Trello to manage this information is beneficial to the entire team.

Editors and advisers can check Trello to track and comment on progress as it happens. In addition, as feature ideas develop, the team can collaborate to get that story included in the book. Finally, advisers can use the beat boards in Trello to help with grading and accountability.

All are winners when your team members are fully invested in an effective beat system that will allow the most compelling stories of year from all groups to be shared in the yearbook.

Comments are closed.

Emily Pyeatt Arnold, CJE

Emily Pyeatt Arnold, CJE, is in her ninth year as yearbook adviser at Haltom High School in Haltom City, Texas, where she has helped the Buffalo yearbook program expand its coverage, adopt a more journalistic style and get more creative in its sales and marketing efforts. The 2015 and 2016 Buffalo yearbooks earned NSPA Pacemaker Finalist awards. Arnold received JEA's Rising Star award in 2015.