Adviser FAQ

New Advisers

First, welcome to the crazy world of advising!!

  • JEA – I highly recommend joining the Journalism Education Association (JEA). They provide a lot of resources, but their curriculum is invaluable. 
  • Your yearbook publisher – most yearbook publishers provide curriculum and educational resources, so I definitely recommend reaching out to your rep to begin reviewing what they provide. 
  • Facebook groups – literally such a lifesaver! Here you’ll find thousands of advisers posting and commenting to help each other and share resources. Click here for links to various groups.
  • Scour this site! There are tons of free resources that can help you learn the skills needed to create student publications AND teach your students.
    • Our Resource Page is always growing with more links that you may find helpful
    • A good place to start may be looking at this video about the scope and sequence of student publications.


Lastly, be sure to join our email list, so you can get all the newest resources right in your inbox. Our goal is to provide the tools that advisers need to build a thriving journalism program. Everything we create comes directly from adviser requests. So your wish is ✨quite literally✨ my command. So, please feel free to reach out if you need anything at all! I may not have all the answers, but I will find someone who does! 

Great question! Your classroom will quickly become “home” to your publication staffs and the environment matters! I suggest trying to make the room inviting, comfortable, and fun (you’ll all be spending a lot of time in there!), but also focus on productivity. 

Even if you don’t have a dedicated space, you’ll need to have:

  • Camera storage (that locks!)
    Camera gear is expensive and can be a hot commodity if not properly secured. You’ll need space for camera bodies, lenses, lens caps, batteries, and chargers. Shelving units, cabinets, lockers are common storage solutions. 
  • Reference materials. Most materials can (and should be) stored digitally, but there are certain things I recommend keeping printed copies for quick reference, such as the master schedule and student list (for checking grade levels or name spelling), etc.
  • Ladder. Again, we mostly reference the digital version of this, but I think it’s a great visual for students to see progress being made over the course of the year. 
  • Color Printer. It’s always a good idea to print out proofs of your page. Viewing your content on a backlit screen is a totally different experience than editing on paper. You can also view content at 100% size to see how it will look in your publication. Most of the time when students are creating on-screen, it’s hard for them to conceptualize how big things really are. 


The following things are not absolutely necessary, but help to create a productive environment. 

  • Posters. Handy guides about writing and design to help your staff when creating. (A poster collection is in the works in the OA Shop – coming soon! Stay tuned.)
  • Style Guides. Once finalized, print them out for quick reference. Consider placing several copies around the room near the computers. 
  • Archive of Previous Covers. Consider framing the previous covers of your publications to create a gallery of the past publications. 
  • Award Gallery. Display the awards your staff has earned. It helps to keep the celebration going, as well as encourage excellence for future recognition!


The last list consists of just-for-fun things that help to create a home-like environment. Obviously, consider budget and space constraints, but these items will make your staff (and you!) a lot comfier on late work nights. A lot of this revolves around food… which as we all know, teenagers love. You’ll quickly learn that feeding them = more productivity. 😉

  • “Mommy-Box” – These are so helpful for your staff – but these items can also be useful to have on hand for your subjects during photoshoots. Include things like oil blotting sheets, bandaids, nail file, clippers, polish remover (good for so many things), hair ties, bobby pins, feminine hygiene products, hairspray, combs, mouthwash, mints, etc. 
  • Mirror
  • Coffee pot – with cups, creamer, sweetener, etc.
  • Fridge – Facebook marketplace is a great resource. Sometimes you can even snag a free one! 
  • Microwave
  • Griddle – it’s VERY cheap and fast to make a million pancakes. One time, I made so many I had to mix the batter in a 5 gallon bucket!

 

We know. It’s a little crazy… and totally overwhelming when you’re just getting started. 

To see a list of student publications terms: organizedadviser.com/terminology

We highly recommend joining journalism education associations. They provide incredible resources as well as many networking opportunities.

Browse the national and local organizations here: organizedadviser.com/organizations

CJE = Certified Journalism Educator

MJE = Master Journalism Educator

These credentials are issued by the Journalism Education Association (JEA) and are separate from your state’s teaching credentials. 

For more information, visit: jea.org/wp/certification.

It can be overwhelming when it comes time to accept bids for your yearbook contract. Representatives from multiple companies will often reach out to schedule meetings, and that can be stressful for an already-so-busy adviser. Additionally, pricing will very A LOT because there are so many options and variations that go into your yearbook contract. It can be tempting to go with the cheapest proposal, but you need to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.  

My overall advice is to get quotes from everyone and ask a lot of questions.
 
Here is a long list of questions to consider when considering who to choose for your yearbook publisher.

TEACHING

SCOPE/SEQUENCE

This is one of the most asked questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have a “traditional” scope and sequence, because each program’s schedule and school/district requirements are so unique.

However, I have put together a document that may be helpful when planning what concepts to teach, and in what order.

Also, here is a YouTube video with additional info:

Content

Theme

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Yearbook Style Guide Template 0.00 KB 1147 downloads

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Example Style Guide 10.22 MB 776 downloads

I highly recommend Michael Simon and Carrie Faust’s “Theme in 25 Minutes” podcast, available here: tinyurl.com/theme25

Here is a video describing how to use the Design Thinking process to develop your yearbook theme:

Writing

Headlines provide a starting point for the reader, connect to the dominant photo, and the set the tone for the overall topic.
 
Your headline should be more than just a label. It should be catchy enough to easily grab the reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading.
 

Leveraging literary devices can be useful to write engaging headline writing: 

  • alliteration
  • puns
  • cliches
  • play on words
  • onomatopoeia
  • rhyme
  • allusion
  • antonyms
  • synonyms
  • homonyms


Visually, your headline should be very clear. While all other copy in the book should be using defined sizes and styles for consistency, the headline is the one element that can be designed in a unique way (but still using the themed style guide) in order to garner attention.

Your headline got the reader’s attention, but now what? They still need to know what your story or module is about. That’s where the subhead comes in. 
The subhead should always include a subject and a verb and tells the reader what the content is about. Don’t overthink it. Use plain language and simply describe the main points being featured.
 
NOTE
Be cautious of repetitive subheads that start the same way. The most common culprit is “students” followed by a verb, but challenge your staff to get creative and vary the format!

Goal: Your job is to REPORT the event, no OPINION (editorializing) allowed.

  • Lead – first sentence/paragraph
    • Must include 5 W’s and H – who, what, when, where, why, how
      • In order of importance
    • Engage reader and describe what the story is about
  • Quotes make up 40-50% of the story
  • Transitions between quotes are what make the story flow smoothly
    • Can be helpful to start with an outline to organize your points
  • Avoid cliches (“raise the bar”, “it goes without saying”, “needless to say”), redundancies (brutal murder, complete stranger, future plans), and extraneous words.
  • Elaborate when needed to add detail, do not add fluff
  • Usually a shorter story is a better story

It should be very clear to the reader what photo the caption is describing.

We call that little part of the caption the “directive,” as it directs or guides the reader to which photo the caption corresponds to.

I like to keep it simple and just use: left, right, above, below… but if there are multiple photos in a module, sometimes it needs a bit more clarity so I’ll do something like: far above, top, middle, etc. 

At the very least, your captions need to identify who is pictured in the photo. More descriptive captions are better, as they add context to the feature and help describe the scenario for the reader.

While we are creating the yearbook for students this year, we are also creating it for the future. When your readers open the book decades from now, captions help describe the details that have been forgotten over time.

For an in-depth tutorial on writing captions, watch:

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How to Write Captions 12.00 KB 1304 downloads

Short answer – yes. 
Long answer – yes, but… 
 
Technically, yes, every photos should have a caption that identifies who is in the photo and explains what is happening. It adds content to the image, which is important for when the audience is consuming the content decades from now and our memories fade. 
 
However, if you don’t have captions at the moment and your staff is used to a photo-heavy book, it can be a daunting task to implement captions for the entire book. So – just work your way up to it. Work with your staff to create incremental goals and improve the content over time.
  • The first year, maybe your goal is just that all photos have ident captions (where the people are identified with their grade level).
  • The next year, maybe you also require that all dominant photos have a full caption, and you start to include mini stories on modules, where it makes sense. 
  • Year Three, you add that each photo needs to have at least a one-sentence detailed caption. 

Each year, add on a little bit more detail for the book and eventually, it will become second nature and your staff will come to expect it as a norm.

  • Each quote should serve a purpose, such as reveal a source’s character, describe or emphasize a point, or present an opinion. Never just “because you need a quote.” 
  • NEVER EVER EVER go to someone with a picture and say “I need a quote for this.” Interview them.
  • You must write exactly what the source said in order to be a quote.
  • You cannot change a quote, but you’re fully in charge of transitions. Make sure the transition does not merely repeat what is being said in the quote.
  • Asking good questions will get you good quotes. If needed, ask them to clarify, re-word, or re-state in a full sentence.

“I am a very descriptive quote about something super interesting,” Firstname Lastname9 said.

  • Comma inside the quotation mark
  • Always use “said.” Never exclaimed, shouted, yelled, whispered, etc. When writing prose, we love being descriptive! But in journalism, we want to convey just what the source said – nothing more, nothing less. When the writer adds descriptive words to the attribution, it injects sentiment to their statement. The words will speak for themselves and let the reader imply the tone.


“I am a very descriptive quote about something super interesting,” Firstname Lastname9 said. “I am a second sentence from the source. I am a third sentence.”

  • If quote is longer than one sentence, attribute the quote after the first sentence. 
  • Use a period at the end of subsequent sentences.


I am the first sentence of a caption about Firstname Lastname9 and I am written in present tense. I am a second sentence with added details and I am in past tense. “I am a very descriptive quote about something super interesting,” Lastname said. “I am a second sentence from the source. I am a third sentence.”

  • If the source has already been identified earlier in the story or caption, use only their last name to attribute the quote.
  • Do not include grade level on subsequent references.

Goal: to get interesting and informative quotes.

  • The quotes (source’s part) tell perspectives and opinions of the story vs. the commentary and transitions (your part) is just the facts
  • Come in with a plan – what do you want to know?
  • Questions
    • NO Yes/No questions! Re-word these so the source has to answer thoughtfully
    • Prioritize conversation over question-asking – but come to the interview with questions
    • Ask follow up for more details
    • Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions
  • Subject
    • Know your subject – research them in ADVANCE – not on the way there!
  • Silence is OK – allow it, embrace it.
  • Interview them at THEIR convenience, so they are most comfortable
    • Uncomfortable, rushed, frazzled sources will NOT give thoughtful answers to your questions
  • TAKE. GOOD. NOTES. (record audio if possible)


Keep ALL “receipts” from interviews. If the source ever claims they did not say what is quoted, you’ll be able to prove that they did. Keep organized records (screen shots, audio files, etc.) in a central location for anyone on the staff to access just in case. 

Each photo in your book needs to include attribution to the photographer who took it. 

There is no standard method, but consistency is important. As long as your staff picks a format and sticks to it, you’re good to go!

The most common formats are:

  • Photo by Firstname Lastname
  • Photo By Firstname Lastname
  • Photo by: Firstname Lastname
  • Photo By: Firstname Lastname
  • Photo by F. Lastname
  • Photo By F. Lastname
  • Photo by: F. Lastname
  • Photo By: F. Lastname


If all the photos have been taken by the same person, it is okay to put a bulk attribution (photos by…) somewhere on the spread. 

You can also consider using a camera icon 📸 to indicate the photographer. 

 

Every staff does this a little differently and opinions on “best practices” differ quite a bit. 
 
With group photo names – the rule of thumb I like to use is label them whatever is the most logical and implicitly clear to the reader.
 
Row 1: Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, etc.
Row 2: Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, etc.
With this method, it isn’t clear to the reader if the top or bottom row is intended to be “Row 1.”
 
Front Row: Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, etc.
Row 2: Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, etc.
Row 3: Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, etc.
Back Row: : Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, Firstname Lastname, etc.
Using logical terms to define the front and back row makes it very clear which row is being described.
Every staff does this a little differently and opinions on “best practices” differ quite a bit.
 
The most common methods are:
  • Firstname Lastname (9) – grade level in parenthesis after name
    • It is very clear to the reader, but can be somewhat of an interruption when reading a sentence.
  • Firstname Lastname (’22) – graduation year in parenthesis after name
    • While it’s nice to honor graduation years, the grade level is not immediately clear to the reader.
    • This is even more difficult in the future when looking at an old yearbook and having to do the math to calculate what grade levels the subject was at the time.
  • senior Firstname Lastname – grade level description in written out before name
    • Lengthens the text block 
    • Doesn’t read smoothly when describing multiple people in various grade levels
  • Firstname Lastname9 – grade level as superscript after name
    • While less obtrusive in a paragraph, some staffs don’t like how it looks like an exponent.

There is no standard method for notating grade levels, but consistency is important. As long as your staff picks a method and sticks to it, you’re good to go!

Each spread should contain the following text elements:

  • Headline
  • Subhead
  • Captions for each photo
  • Photo Bys for each photo
  • Story By (if there is a story)
  • Page By (unless noted somewhere else in the book)
  • Use the school name or mascot. It’s redundant. The whole dang book is about your school, so we don’t need to have it written out.
  • Refer to the interview. Don’t say “when asked Bob said…” Instead, describe the question asked or just go straight into the quote. 
  • Quote things that could be easily researched. That content should be used in the transition sentences. Quotes should be about the subject’s emotion or reaction to an event.

Publications Photography

As with many things, it is best to create a system.

Equipment Check-Out
There are many ways to do this – do whatever works for you. Some advisers prefer a simple clipboard to manage checkouts, and others have a sophisticated barcode scanner to manage equipment.

There are also several apps you can use to track inventory. You should know who has each piece of equipment at all times. 

Procedures
It’s helpful to also create some procedures around equipment checkout. For instance – 

  • Memory Cards – do all staff members have their own, or does the memory card stay in the camera? 
  • Batteries – when do they get recharged? When they’re dead, or after each returned camera?
  • Reservations –  if you don’t have enough cameras for everyone, how do students reserve a camera? How far in advance? How is priority determined for covering specific events with “better” equipment?

The goal is to publish candid photos that capture action, activity, emotion, reaction, etc. 

Obviously there will be some posed shots used in the publication, but strive to include as many candids as possible. Even headshots can be a candid with the subject talking or laughing, not directly looking at the lens.

Yep. Simply due to the nature of photography, ALL photos straight out of the camera (SOOC) will be much duller than real life. When looking at them on a backlit computer screen, they look much more vibrant than they will when printed.

Knowing your camera and the basics of photography will help you become confident behind the lens. Shooting with proper settings will result in photos that may not need much editing, but it’s still important to process each image.

The most common adjustments to make are:

  • brightness
  • contrast
  • straighten the horizon line
  • correct the white balance
  •  

Student publications cover PEOPLE – not events or buildings. All published photos need to have identifiable people in them. 

Photography can be a wonderful creative outlet, but not all great photographs are journalistic

Remember, you are telling a story. Intentionally look for opportunities to capture moments that provide a glimpse into a bigger story.

It’s important to keep track of who took all the photos, so they can be credited in the publication.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to implement a file naming convention requirement for when students turn in photos. 

While shooting, your student photographers need to be collecting data about who is in their photos. 

They can carry a notebook or create a note in their phone, etc. Train your staff to get used to asking for their subject’s name. Just in case later they or someone else needs to interview them.

If they don’t have the subject’s name, consider asking the faculty/staff in the counselor’s office, front office, assistant principal’s offices, library, etc. These offices see a lot of students and get to know names and faces.

Still no luck? Try sending a message to all the teachers for a subject you know every student has to be enrolled in, such as English.

Yearbook Structure

Your spine should include:

  • School Name
  • School Year
  • Volume Number
  • City, State

Your cover should include:

  • Theme artwork
    • They say not to judge a book by the cover, buuuuut this is your audience’s very first impression to your theme! You should introduce your reader to your theme verbally and visually with your cover.
  • Publication Name
  • School Year
    • just the year the book comes out (“2030” not “2029-2030”)

The title page must include the essential information about the publication, as it describes who the publication is about and who it was made for. It’s also one of the reader’s first impressions of your book, so it should visually convey your theme’s look and feel as well.

Your title page should include:

  • School name
  • Complete physical address
  • Website Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Enrollment – either for the entire campus or by grade level
  • Principal name
  • Publication year
  • Publication name
  • Athletic conference/division

Your opening spread (or spreads) is your chance to tell the reader about the theme. It should verbally and visually describe why the staff chose the theme, how it relates to the current student body at the school, and further introduce the reader to the themed aesthetics.

Similarly, the closing spread wraps up the publication with a theme related message. 

The folio is the page number. It also includes additional information such as

  • the section name
  • topic label
  • staff attribution – who created the spread
  • theme related content


It should be designed with your theme visuals in mind. 

It can be placed anywhere on the spread, but should be consistent through the entire publication.

A colophon is a statement, placed at the end of a publication (not just yearbooks!) that provides information about its authorship and printing. In a yearbook, it typically includes the names of the staff and printer, book specifications, size of the edition and other information about the production of the yearbook.
 
Not only does it add an extra touch of professionalism and sophistication, but it also serves as a reminder of all the hard work everyone involved in creating your yearbook put into making it happen.
 
To easily create your colophon, utilize our free generator here: organizedadviser.com/colophon-generator

Newspaper Structure

There are many different formats of school newspapers.

Traditionally, newspapers were printed tabloid size (11in x 17in) on newsprint and folded in half. 

Most modern school newspapers have transitioned to being in a magazine (8x5in x 11in) format, printed on either glossy paper or newsprint.

The cover of your newsmagazine needs to include: 

  • Publication Name (masthead)
  • School Name 
  • Volume Number
  • Issue Number
  • Date Issued (month and year)


Visually, there are many ways to design your cover. You can create an illustration to highlight a feature article, take an editorial photo, create a collage to tease multiple articles, etc.

While not required, consider teasing several articles (text-only) and include their page number.

I ran my school newspaper very similarly to yearbook – we had a consistent style guide, formatting, and designed spreads most of the time (vs. individual pages). 

There are some helpful videos about design on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@organizedadviser

In particular:
  • Design Basics – This will cover basics and terms. With newspaper, you’ll obviously have longer stories, so I would put that on the spread before a dominant photo/graphic element. Always make sure the stories are in columns, because it’s hard to read if it goes across the entire page.
    • Delicious Design – you could also easily adapt this lesson for NP to teach basics and terms
  • Improving Your Spreads – aimed at YB, but it all applies to NP too

Lastly, another place to look for guidance/inspiration would be printed publications and magazine templates. Ideally, your staff will be building their own layouts, but especially in the beginning as you learn, it can be helpful to study existing ones. Envato elements has some excellent templates that could serve as a starting point. Here are some examples: 

Somewhere in each issue, there should be a space that details:

  • every staff member and their position
  • credits the cover photo photographer
  • contact information
  • any organizations the publication is a member of
  • any necessary disclaimers

Near the front, each issue needs to include a Table of Contents that guides the reader to each article.

Most school newspapers are funded (at least partially) by community advertisers. Reach out to local businesses and organizations to solicit advertisements. 

Download an editable ad contract:

It’s important to include a disclaimer in your publication that declares what kind of publication it is, how it’s created, a policy for letters to the editor, and a notice about mistakes. Here is a sample:
 
[PUBLICATION] is a student newspaper published by the newspaper class at [SCHOOL]. It is established as an open forum intended for the free and uninhibited exchange of ideas between the students and staff. Its purpose is to inform, educate and incite thought and debate regarding school, local and national issues. All articles and editorials are written in an entertaining, yet informative way that maintains journalistic integrity.
 
The views printed in [PUBLICATION] do not necessarily reflect the views of the adviser, staff or [DISTRICT]. Editorials represent the opinion of the writer, not necessarily of a [DISTRICT] administration or faculty.
 
Letters to the Editors are encouraged and welcome. Any letter submitted is subject to editing for length, content and grammar although the intended meaning of the letter will not be changed.
 
Production costs are covered through the sale of advertising.
 
[SCHOOL] is a member of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) and the Journalism Education Association (JEA). It is the policy of [DISTRICT] not to discriminate on the basis of sex, disability, race, religion, color, age, or national origin and its education programs, activities, and employment practices.
 
This news magazine is student-created in an academic lab setting. We regret that errors can and will occur. However, the school staff, newspaper students, publisher, school administration, adviser and photo studios are not liable for errors, missing information, photos or lost material.

Design

First, look at the content through the lens of your theme and evaluate where you can add verbal or visual elements that tie back to your theme. 

Second, evaluate basic design elements using this guide.

Although many publisher-provided design programs mimic professional software, there is just nothing like using the industry-standard software, Adobe InDesign. There are no limits when using professional page layout software, and you’re able to teach your students marketing skills they can take into their future. If you are new to using InDesign, consider enrolling in our online course: Using Adobe InDesign to Create Student Publications

A colophon is a statement, placed at the end of a publication (not just yearbooks!) that provides information about its authorship and printing. In a yearbook, it typically includes the names of the staff and printer, book specifications, size of the edition and other information about the production of the yearbook.
 
Not only does it add an extra touch of professionalism and sophistication, but it also serves as a reminder of all the hard work everyone involved in creating your yearbook put into making it happen.
 
To easily create your colophon, utilize our free generator here: organizedadviser.com/colophon-generator

Marketing & Sales

It can be tempting to use the platform as propaganda for your program. Many staffs posts bunch of reminders about yearbook sales deadlines, senior tribute information, invitations to apply for the staff, etc.

But *newsflash* no one is going to follow you for that! And, when you’re posting the same kind of thing over and over, the message gets diluted as it fades into the landscape of everything else being shown in the feed.

The most common question we get about social media is “ok but, what else do we even post then?” Fair question – it can be a daunting task to take on essentially another publication.

Learn how to craft your social media strategy and get 30+ post ideas here: organizedadviser.com/sm-posts

Portraits

No problem at all… they’re adults. If they don’t want to take a photo, I’m not chasing them. The yearbook is a historical document but it’s not a legal document. It’s their prerogative to show up/be included or not.
 
Full disclosure, I also don’t check for not pictured students or even print a list of them. Like I said, it’s historical but it’s not a legal record of who worked there/attended there. 
 
That’s probably not the most kosher answer, but at a large school that can be a LONG list. And the list changes as people move during the year – there’s no way to keep up with it. You’re either going to have complaints about people not being in it (by their own volition) or being left off the not pictured list. I’d, personally, rather manage complaints about something that easily falls back on them. 
 
I also kind of feel it could be asking for more people to not be pictured in the future bc they didn’t realize it was an “option” (it’s not, but some can take it that way). 
 
No chasing, no last year’s photos (because that’s not accurate historical record either)… show up or don’t, it’s our job just to publish what we’re given. 🤷🏽‍♀️

End of
the year

First of all – do not panic. There is no such thing as a perfect yearbook! Even the best of the best have mistakes. Remember, they are a student publication, made by humans, and mistakes are bound to happen.

For minor errors (non-offensive typo, low-resolution photo, etc) – don’t sweat it! Make a note of it for next year to emphasize more careful editing, but it’s not worth getting upset about. It comes with the nature of student publications.

For more egregious errors (senior photo missing, offensive typo, etc.), your publisher can provide a “crack and peel” sticker. They match your yearbook’s paper and print quality perfectly and the adhesive is SUPER permanent. Once they’re placed in the book, they cannot be removed without damaging the book. 

You and the staff worked SO hard on the book, and big errors can be heartbreaking and frustrating, because it feels like a distraction from all the good content it has. But – it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, it’s JUST a yearbook. As much as we LOVE yearbooks, it’s not a life or death situation. Apologize, make it right, and stay positive. Cry about it if that helps, but don’t dwell on it. Just make a note for next year and keep it moving. 🙂 

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