How Our Yearbook Went from Ground Zero to Award Winning

How Our Yearbook Went from Ground Zero to Award-Winning

I consider myself competitive, not in the sporty sense, but in other aspects of life, such as playing board games, working on projects and creating a yearbook. But I must say, it has taken me 15 years to win a Crown from Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

I had three barriers:

  1. The yearbook representative I worked with for my first seven years did not send me to workshops or camps or tell me about professional journalistic organizations (This was not Herff Jones.)
  2. I had an after school club that met once a week, which left me doing much of the yearbook myself.
  3. I did not realize the importance of having my yearbook critiqued, especially since it was a junior high school book (grades 8-9).

It was not until I changed yearbook companies, began teaching a class during the school day, attended workshops and camps and joined Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2012 that my yearbook began to take a new life of its own.

Be prepared to be shocked. I thought our yearbook was really good, or at least not too bad…

When I received our first critique, it came with many suggestions for improvement. This can be a bit daunting at first, but this is what I asked for when I submitted my book. However, this feedback would completely alter the journalistic and photographic quality of our yearbook. We received a silver medal for our first submission. With your critique…

  1. Keep the to-do list short and attainable

I decided which suggestions would be easy to change and made a short list of what I wanted to improve the next year. You cannot do it all in one year unless you want to burn out.

  1. Continue to polish and improve

The following year I added more to my list of improvements and kept the ones I had established. Although I received a bit less feedback for improvements, we received another silver medal, but our points were creeping closer to a gold medal.

  1. Receive feedback from other people

While I submitted our book to CSPA, I had our yearbook critiqued by Bruce Watterson each time we attended Georgia Yearbook Expo. I compiled his suggestions along with the others I had received to make further improvements.

  1. Go for the Gold

We won a gold medal for our 2015 and 2016 yearbook. I was ecstatic because our book was finally becoming journalistically mature. I found out a few months later that our 2015 yearbook was nominated for a Crown. When I attended the conference at Columbia University in the spring, we proudly received a Gold Crown. This past year, our 2016 book received a Silver Crown.

  1. Analyze Yearbooks

After winning a Crown, I was asked if I would like to analyze yearbooks. This is great opportunity because it allows me to see other books, glean ideas, make suggestions and praise what yearbook staffs are doing well. I enjoy helping others improve their yearbooks, but most of all, it reinforces what I need to be doing myself. Reviewing yearbooks is time consuming if you want to be thorough, but it is beneficial to the staff because you want to honor the time they have put into their book and also the finance it costs to become a member of these journalistic organizations.

A Few Yerdy Tips:

  1. Start with one journalistic organization because they can be expensive to join. I suggest Columbia Scholastic Press Association and National Scholastic Press Association. Another organization is Journalism Education Association, which allows advisors to submit student work and awards students for outstanding achievement.
  2. If you are on a budget, have a professional or consultant at one of Herff Jones’ camps analyze your yearbook. It is nominal fee compared to joining an organization.
  1. If you are worried about submitting a middle/junior high school yearbook, do not let this stop you. These yearbooks are just as important as high school yearbooks and your staff needs to know that with the right tools and knowledge they can go from ground zero to award-winning.
Alicia Luttrell

Alicia Luttrell

Yearbook Adviser
Maryville (TN) Junior HS

Alicia Peery Luttrell has been a junior high yearbook adviser for 18 years. She plays fiddle, penny whistle, and irish drum in a traditional Scottish band. She and her husband live in a Victorian home from 1896 with their two Scottie dogs.
Alicia Luttrell
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