Lifeline for Deadlines

John Cutsinger

Jostens Ambassador
John's contributions to scholastic journalism over the past 35 years have included advising award-winning yearbooks, newspapers and magazines, authoring yearbook curriculum, and sharing ideas with thousands of advisers and staffs.

In yearbook land, EVERY DAY should be deadline day. The most successful staffs know that to keep book production on track with top-quality material, attention to detail is necessary. Create the culture and expectation that every day during yearbook time, everyone is working on the book — either doing their own work or helping a fellow staff member.

As a staff, it’s easier to have weekly or bi-weekly mini-deadlines that when combined will satisfy the plant deadline. It makes sense that you can better concentrate on mini-deadline of 20 pages rather than 40 pages that aren’t due for four weeks. It helps minimize procrastination.

As individual staff members, daily planning and checkpoints more successfully lead to spread completion. These micro-deadlines make spread tasks more manageable. Set firm completion dates with a photo deadline followed by story and captions and finishing up with headlines. Mini-deadlines help not only the staff members, but also the editors who can have a more balanced workload.

No staff member should be an island. The more, the merrier is pure logic not only when working on a staff deadline but also individual spreads. Be sure each staffer feels comfortable asking for help and has access to knowledgeable people. When everyone one works every day for the common good, staff morale will soar. There’s strength in numbers.

Editors should mentor by taking a daily, hands-on approach with staff members. Daily check-ins can cover:

  • Content
  • Design
  • Quality
  • Timeliness.

It’s as simple as keeping a calendar with staff member key mini-deadlines. Daily check-ins are an opportunity to motivate staffers for continued success.

To best ensure great storytelling, the adviser should facilitate the editing process. Self-editing with a quality-ensuring rubric will encourage staff members to produce their personal best. Next, peer editing will provide a second consideration to make sure all information is complete and accurate, photos are effectively placed, and design is precise. Then, editorial suggestions for revision should be minimal as they check primarily for consistency throughout the book.

Finally, advisers should lead the entire staff in making a final check. Project each spread so it is accessible to all staff members who can scan the content and design for any final refinements. Using the rubric, the staff can make certain that all aspects of the spread exceed expectations.

Mini-deadlines and multiple edits give the staff member, editors and the entire staff more opportunities to be assured that the spread, and ultimately, the book is the best ever.