Edit or Regret It

Jeff Moffitt

Creative Accounts Manager, Jostens
Jeff advised the award-winning Olympia HS [FL] yearbook and newspaper for 11 years. He is a National Board Certified teacher in career and technical education. JEA named him a Special Recognition Yearbook Adviser in 2010 and a Rising Star in 2006.

Editing your spreads is paramount to having an amazing yearbook. Mistakes happen, yes, but our job is to limit incorrect “theirs” and avoid portrait name misspellings. Take a look at the following ideas to make the editing process just a bit more fun.
Perfect 100 // Print spreads at full size. Find out if there is a large-format printer in the school or district (if not, it is worth the investment to take them to a local print shop) and hang them on the wall for everyone on staff to review. Provide sticky notes so staff members can provide feedback.
Expert Editing Activity // Every staff member is an editor, even if they are not assigned an editorial role. Some staff members will be future yearbook leaders. This activity engages students regardless of skill level and gives them a taste of what it means to be an editor.

Assign role to each student on staff and make them an expert on that topic (e.g., folios, captions, quote format and more. Depending on staff size, they might need to be an expert in multiple areas that day, but with more than three things to look for, the activity’s effectiveness goes down). Open a different spread on each computer (or print them out if that works better based on your set up). Place a sheet of paper near each computer. With their assigned editing role, each student moves from computer to computer checking their area of expertise (consider assigning them different things to look for every time you do this). As they move from station to station they make a note about what they see about their area of expertise. At the end of the activity, students leave with a list of opportunities for improvement. It also allows the yearbook team to see how the book is coming together and understand why consistency from spread to spread is so important.

Noteworthy // Keep a notebook with plastic sheets and and full-color page printouts. Put the pages in order to get a visible printed preview of what the book looks like and how it is shaping up. Start with blank pages of paper and, as the pages are completed, replace the blanks with real, full-color pages. This provides a visual sign of how much of the book is completed and what needs to be done.
Read Out Loud // Classic editing tip: have students read all writing out loud, either to another person or just individually. The writer will notice some things that don’t work, see mistakes and determine what needs to be done to make the story better. One possible twist on this is for them to take it home and read it to a parent (or another adult). They will get valuable feedback and it doesn’t take time out of class. It can be a gradable homework assignment by having the parent sign off and the student providing the before/after of their writing. This also helps the parent engage in what their student is working on and learning in your class.
Last Word // Read writing from the bottom up. Read the last word first and continue backwards. By looking at something from a different perspective, misspellings, misused words and other inconsistencies will be more obvious.
Dynamic Spelling // A simple yet often-forgotten tip is to turn on dynamic spelling. Pay attention to the red zig-zag! Students sometimes become immune to the zig-zag because it often underlines names. Simple solution: load student names into your dictionary.
Quote Notes // One of the most common complaints of the yearbook (besides misspelled names) is that students are misquoted. Before a quote is printed, invite the student to review their quote and sign off on it. Don’t be afraid that they are going to tell people about seeing the spread. It is actually a good thing when they are talking about the yearbook. It shows you care about being accurate and they might tell their friends, which could generate excitement about the book.
Pop Up // Have an editor periodically review a spread for accuracy by visiting the sources and stakeholder for a spread and getting their feedback about coverage and accuracy. This shows you care, and also holds staff members accountable and helps minimize mistakes in the book. Again, don’t be worried about showing the work … they are going to see it eventually anyway, so why not get it right?
Photo Paste Up // Print portrait spreads and tape the print outs inside a window facing out so people can look at them. Publicize they are posted and that students need to check them for accuracy — spelling, correct grade, that they are there if they took a picture, etc. Give them a deadline and tell them to let you know in writing the problem and what the correct information should be. Not only is this a way to CYA (cover your assets), but it also shows that the yearbook wants to get it right!
Portrait PDFs // Similar to the above, create a portrait page PDF booklet and send to the guidance counselors and English teachers. Request that they do a quick check to see if they notice any glaring errors. Not every teacher/counselor will do it, but the ones that do will do a good job.
Index // Run an index and coverage report before each deadline. With the index, check for inaccurate names and duplicate names with different spellings or nicknames so they can be corrected on the pages with the mistakes. Use the coverage report in combination with the index and book sales report to determine who has not been included at least three times and those school celebrities who have been over-covered.