September 28, 2012 / Staff Management

Whittling down the yearbook staff candidates

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Let your staff identify and help select students for next year’s staff. After all, they probably know their peers better than you do.

Jeff Brumley, adviser at Sultan High School in Sultan, Wash., actively recruits students himself, but he has a process in which his staff recommends and vets students.

A couple weeks after the book is finished each spring and the production process has been critiqued, Brumley has the staff compile a list of the top students they think should join the staff next year.

Brumley knew in the spring of 2012 that he would have 15 open spots on the 2013 staff, so each staff member was asked to come up with their list of the top 15.

To start the process each year, Brumley collects the list and eliminates duplicate names. The staff meets, outside if it is a nice day, and has a mature discussion about each student on the list. He reminds them that each of them was critiqued using this same process, in an effort to keep it professional.

“We have a ‘what happens in yearbook stays in yearbook’ rule, and I try to ensure that it is not a gossip session; instead, this is a list of candidates for a job opening and we have to narrow it down,” Brumley said.

Brumley describes to the staff what they should look for in potential members:

  • A good work ethic
  • How well they would fit in with and work with the rest of the staff
  • Good writers, with creativity a plus

“The kids always talk about how good someone is on the computer, but I view that as something we can teach so it is not nearly as important to me,” he said.

“Another thing that comes up a lot is that ‘(name) doesn’t ever talk’ or ’(name) doesn’t have any friends,’ to which my response is that maybe this would be the perfect class for that person to get a chance to meet some new people and be forced to go and do interviews and such,” Brumley said.

At the meeting, Brumley says a name and the students quickly call out their opinion. As an example of how fast they review the list, there were 90 names on this year’s list, and the meeting lasted about 90 minutes.

“Most are overwhelmingly yes or no, so it’s the in between ones that I want to know more about. If they are going to vote no for someone they have to be able to tell me why, and vice versa,” Brumley said.

After the staff pares down the list (this year, it went from 90 to about 60 names), Brumley meets with the next year’s editors to determine the top 15-20. Those are the ones he most actively pursues.

“Ultimately I make the final decision but there are always kids that I do not know that I would miss out on if I didn’t use the staff. Yesterday, I just met a girl for the first time who was near the top of the list and I could tell in the 30 seconds that I met with her that she will probably be an editor as a senior. If I didn’t have the discussion with the class I would have never met her,” he said.

However, if a student who was originally on the staff list asks him if they could be on yearbook staff, and they have a good reason, he will usually take them.

“I always make sure that I deny at least one student just so I can say to the staff the next year that they are an exclusive hand-picked group, the best of the best from Sultan High School and their work needs to show proof of that because there were others who wanted to be in this class who had not shown the body of work that you have.”

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.