An open letter to the media “reporting” on yearbook errors

We see them every year, and cringe a little harder each time. Because we are yearbook advisers, all of our friends and their moms and their dog send us links with some comment along the lines of “OMG did you see this?! I can’t believe it!” We can’t believe it either – but likely for reasons different than yours.

I am talking about NEWS articles published from LEGIT media outlets REPORTING on errors made in (usually) a high school yearbook.

Listen, I get it – some things are TOTALLY newsworthy and have implications far wider than a tiny mistake… however, the majority of these articles are regarding simple mistakes due to human error.

You see, it boils down to this:

  1. High school yearbooks are created in a lab environment by STUDENTS. Simply, errors can and will occur. It’s unfortunate, completely unintentional, and likely breaking the staff’s heart more than you can imagine. We include a disclaimer printed in every single book, and a flyer in the front reminding purchasers of this, yet every year LOTS of kids make the trek to the journalism room just to let me know that we misspelled ‘because.’ I know kid, I saw it before you did, and I saw it when the other 57 kids showed me, and it sucks… but thank you for telling me as well.
  2. Humans make mistakes. I know it’s a hard perspective shift, because you paid for the yearbook so you expect a quality product, but also remember you are holding someone’s homework in your hands. Unless you have 100 in all your classes and have never made a mistake in your life, please think about that for a hot second before criticizing the errors made in it.
  3. We’re training journalistsIn a scholastic journalism classroom, advisers are training teenagers to be good interviewers, writers, storytellers, photographers, designers, salesmen, and marketers. We look to media outlets as the leaders of the industry and expect outlets to report NEWSWORTHY stories in an unbiased fashion. Reporting about a high school’s typos (albeit sometimes excessive) is not news! Granted, the media doesn’t always do a best job of reporting “news” these days across the board anyway, but our hungry budding journalists are looking to YOU for guidance as to what good reporting looks like, and this is not it. Go out there and find a story worth telling – be a journalist.

There is no excuse for shoddy writing, lazy editing, and blatant disregard for careful reporting. But, remember that you’re reporting on work done by kids, and they’re looking to you for leadership.


A Frustrated Consumer of News Media and High School Journalism Adviser

One Response

  1. I agree 100%! Each year my staff and I create checklist after checklist to try to cut down on the number of errors. And while we’re very proud of our publication every year students seem to enjoy nothing more than finding that misspelled word. And heaven forbid if you mislabel identical twins one time in the book! I too put a disclaimer in the book and I always invite those who find the mistakes to join the staff to ensure perfection. ?

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