August 15, 2012 / Coverage

Yearbook staffs aim for more inclusive coverage

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

When Emily Arnold became the yearbook adviser at Haltom High School in Haltom City, Texas, two years ago, she took over a classic traditional yearbook. Every club and every sports team had its own spread. All the usual events got covered every year.

After a year, Arnold knew there needed to be changes.

“It just didn’t seem to be engaging people that much,” Arnold said. “Students would get the yearbook, and they just flipped right to the page where they knew they appeared and that was it.”

The Haltom yearbook staff decided to create a more inclusive yearbook, a trend that more and more staffs have turned to, and a reason why Walsworth developed the phrase “Includitude” as its theme for the new school year.

The idea of using Includitude in the creation of the yearbook came from the idea of involving everyone and everything related to the school and making it part of the yearbook.

With their 2012 book, Arnold and the Haltom staff reinvented their coverage and produced a chronological book divided into weekly modules.

“At the start of the year, we printed an entire list of the student roster in an Excel spreadsheet and we broke it down into the modules,” said Arnold. “We put a blank column next to a student’s name and if they were mentioned, they got marked. The kids were really forced to look into each module and think about what they were covering.”

IncluditudeAt Islander Middle School in Mercer Island, Wash., adviser Kathy Shaner always makes inclusive coverage a point of emphasis with her staff, up to the point of keeping a list of students and checking names off when a student appears in a candid.

“I always thought that only the popular people are in the yearbook. Well they’re in there because they’re usually the ones involved in lots of things, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only kids in the school,” said Shaner. “We make sure we ask where are the people who aren’t getting covered.”

That means seeking out interesting, or even unusual, topics for student profiles. In this year’s book, Shaner cited a story about an Islander student who participates in roller derby.

“This was not a girl you would probably know around school. She almost fades into the wallpaper. But here she is involved in roller derby outside of school. It made for a great story,” said Shaner.

Arnold said more inclusive coverage in the book naturally makes marketing the yearbook easier, and the Haltom staff built in procedures to help with sales. If a student appeared in the book three times but hadn’t purchased, they were specifically targeted with marketing. In addition, any students who weren’t yet in the book by the second half of the year were targeted for short profiles.

“I think it’s about letting kids know that you care about their story,” Arnold said. “We have to convince people in our school the yearbook is something of value. For the longest time here, it was just considered a senior privilege.”

Shaner’s goal of making sure every single person gets a candid picture in the Islander book is sometimes difficult, since the school has around 1,000 students and typically only produces a 112-page yearbook. But they usually reach the goal by taking lots of group student life candids, and even if there are oversights, they make up for it.

Shaner still remembers the year they missed getting a photo of a new student from South Korea into the book, due to an honest mistake.

“It broke my heart, because it was so important to him to be in the yearbook,” said Shaner. “So we took his picture and put it on the endsheet of his yearbook, and even though he wasn’t one of my students I signed it from ‘His yearbook adviser Mrs. Shaner.’ That’s how much it means to us. We even cover the kids we don’t cover!”

Evan Blackwell, CJE
Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is a Web Content Specialist for walsworthyearbooks.com and yearbookhelp.com, as well as a regular contributor to Idea File magazine. He's been a writer and editor for Walsworth Yearbooks for the past 13 years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.