Yearbook is Journalism, Too

Yearbook spread from Oxnard High School in Oxnard, CA depicting their coverage of the Thomas Fire. There are many photos across the two pages and text includes personal stories, student quotes and two  infographics displaying statistics about the fire and the types of donations that came to the school.


In celebration of Scholastic Journalism Week, let’s all acknowledge that a yearbook class is a journalism class, too. So often when discussing campus publications, I hear “we have a journalism class [newspaper] and a yearbook class” from students and educators alike.  That statement makes me a little crazy. I want to pause the conversation right there and shed a little light:

Number One: Yearbook staffs are comprised of student journalists. There are editors, reporters, staff writers, photojournalists, and fact checkers. Most of the time, each staffer is all of the above in the process of putting together a yearbook spread.
Number Two: Yes, a yearbook should be a pretty photo book. But on its most basic level, the main purpose of a yearbook is a history book. As Yearbook Lady Michele always says, “If it’s not in the yearbook, it didn’t happen.” Because let’s be honest…two years from now, are you going to remember every event, every student, every teacher, every score of every game? A yearbook is an annual, permanent record of the events that transpired and the people who were there. There is no “news cycle” in the yearbook. You only need to look at last September’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings or the more recent Virginia Governor Ralph Northam news stories to see and grasp the forever-impact of a yearbook. The responsibility to tell the complete story of the year with intent and integrity is huge.
Number Three: Yearbook staffers are memory makers. They go out and capture moments and turn them into stories about people. They seek out individual voices and personal stories in the quest for total inclusion. Because everyone and everyone’s story deserves to be remembered.

So I encourage all of you out there in the trenches of scholastic journalism to change the way you and other educators discuss journalism on your campuses. Give ALL your publication classes the honor they deserve by calling them by name: print or online newspaper, video or radio broadcasting, literary magazine, news magazine, yearbook. Each and every one of these classes is “journalism.”

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