Yearbooks are important even in the digital age

Yearbooks are the original social networking venue. Long before Facebook, twitter.com, IMs, texting and MySpace, yearbooks have connected teens with their friends, their teachers and their school communities. Interactive and timeless, yearbooks tell the story of the year at a particular school reflecting its richness and diversity.

A great story of a once-in-a-lifetime-year provides the context of a yearbook. It also drives its content. Yearbooks chronicle what's most relevant to students. Coverage touches on everything from posed to candid images and activities that range from orchestra to Guitar Hero club. Traditional coverage has been expanded to include all aspects of the school community. Best of all, every student belongs in today's yearbook.

Inclusiveness is one of the key reasons yearbooks remain in demand. Today's marketing savvy yearbook staffs place extra emphasis on making sure every student in the school appears in the book at least three times, using an image upload site and Web-based indexing tools to track student coverage and events.

You'll find an array of photos, feature stories, interviews and sidebars designed to spotlight everyone. Successful school yearbook programs help people feel connected and contribute to a positive school culture.

According to Lizabeth Walsh, a master journalism educator and yearbook adviser at Reno High School, Reno, Nev., "Yearbook advisers and staffs have to be aware of their schools' cultures. Students are a good source to help advisers and staffs determine what readers want in their yearbooks. Ask students what they'd like to see, then plan coverage based on that."

Yearbooks celebrate belonging, connection and personal experiences -- things that remain essential, even in the digital age.

Today's print yearbooks continue to push the technology envelope, making it easier for staffs to produce a professionally designed finished product. Staffs create trend-setting designs using intuitive online creation tools or professional desktop publishing software. All-color yearbooks have become the standard.

Many schools offer "yearbook" as a class. The real world experience helps develop skills in journalism, leadership and business. In addition to photography, writing and design, many tap into Facebook and MySpace to generate marketing buzz and invite students to share story ideas and photos.

Even with high-tech touches, the future of print yearbooks remains solidly rosy. Walsh agrees, "I'd say that yearbooks, as permanent records, are not going out of style during my lifetime."

While technologies change, good storytelling never goes out of style. As decades come and go, smiling teenagers will still be flipping through the freshly printed pages of their brand new yearbooks, asking friends for their autographs and sharing stories. Long after they've graduated, they'll still look back at the memories saved in their yearbooks.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2009