high school journalism

Responsible Reporting

Reporting? Isn't that just for newspapers and broadcasting? Nope...it applies to yearbooks, too! While you may not fancy your staff as "reporters", that is exactly what you're sending them out into the world to do: report.

When publishing a high school yearbook, equal weight should be placed on both journalism and photojournalism. It's easy to get lost in the imagery of your yearbook layouts: big beautiful photography that tells a story in itself. It's not enough! Those images need a well-written piece of journalistic magic to fill in any gaps there may be. In today's social climate, it becomes increasingly important to report accurate and pertinent information to your audience. What your audience (student body) is looking for in their yearbook is, essentially, a volume of your school's history. So, how does one decide how to caption photos or choose information for features? It's called news judgement.

News judgement is a phrase used to describe the act of vetting a news story and judging whether or not it's of importance/novelty to your audience. Those journalists said to have good "news judgement" are inherently good at delivering the type of story their audience wants to read at the right time in the right tone. Because, let's face it, if a publication misses the mark, people will notice and in the age of social media with terms like "fake news" being tossed about, it's best to not take any chances.

What should you consider when choosing how to report on a year-in-the-life of your school?

Timeliness - is the feature you're considering pertinent to the year in question?  This is particularly important for those that lay out their yearbook using a chronological format.

Novelty - is the story as rare as it is entertaining? If the answer is yes to both, your story will deliver on more than one level.

Conflict & Consequence - does your story deal with two or more opposing sides? As long as equal coverage is given to all sides and your story reads without bias, stories of rivalry are of high interest to many audiences. Following up the story with the outcome or consequence completes your news circle. In a publication like a yearbook, interviewing people from the opposing sides during and after the conflict is the most complete and thorough way to cover the story. There is no "next issue" to follow up in, so don't leave your readers hanging!

While there are many aspects of reporting to consider while choosing content for your yearbook, these are solid initial guidelines to follow. A great place to look for more journalism curriculum is the Journalism Education Association. JEA provides advisers the tools for teaching students responsible and effective journalism. With a JEA membership, teachers have access to a well-thought-out curriculum written and curated by industry professionals.

Taking the opportunity to not only organize a bunch of photos with captions on pages, but to actually report on the happenings of your school year will make publishing and distributing your yearbook not only fun but oh-so-rewarding, as well. Deliver a piece of history your staff can be proud of!