October 15, 2013 / Editor-in-chief's Corner / Fall 2013

Trust, research essential to yearbook staff changes

Written by Madisson Stanley

Taking the reins of a yearbook staff is scary, and reorganizing the staff sounds like the worst idea coming into your role as editor-in-chief. But change can be your friend if you approach it confidently and trust your team.

We switched from traditional organization with one editor-in-chief to chronological with three editors in charge, and it was daunting. It took a lot of meetings and presentations but everything worked out for the best.

My advice to those of you trying to tackle new methods — do your research. Use successful books as reference, talk to people doing similar things, read blogs, make handouts to keep your staff updated, and discuss plant deadlines with your sales representative so you can make the book you want to see made.

Using co-editors can seem tricky. Each of us led teams that dealt with the weekly coverage, so we got to specialize in design, copy and photography as we made assignments.

The three of us treated each other like business partners with different skills to offer in the J Room. Even when one of them criticized me, I had to realize it was probably for the best because I might be making an awful decision. Having three of us put more eyes with equal experience on the book. We were there to help each other and keep each other grounded when it got tough.

Other staff roles can be modified as well. If you have a person who has been awesome about getting mods done, make that their job specifically for your larger event coverage such as prom, track and the musical. Put more people on big assignments to split up the work load, as senior ads, the people section and index can be really stressful. If you are creating the type of book that needs a quote for every caption and you have a freshman who is trying to find her place, send her to do interviews.

The last thing that can be interesting to deal with as a leader is motivation. No one will do anything they don’t want to do. Learn your staff’s personality types and try methods you think might work on that certain person. Play games showing that everyone depends on each other on a yearbook staff no matter how small the job. Push contest season and how great it feels to win after working hard. Have people leave thank you notes in a box and read them after a deadline. Ultimately if you have someone who is not dependable, deal with it as early as possible. You can’t force anyone to be productive, and you’re only hurting them if you do all their work yourself.

When you’re working with a staff that is tackling a new challenge, be willing to give up some control and learn by trial and error. Remember to be accommodating, patient and proud of everything you produce because you developed something new with your peers that just might make you an NSPA Pacemaker Finalist.

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Madisson Stanley