Weekly Feature

2017-05-17 / Editorials

Senior year proves all yearbooks [still] matter

DAVID F. SHERMAN
Managing Editor

As the high school term heads into the home stretch, seniors are bombarded with rites and rituals. There’s the prom and all the costly accessories that go with it. The cap and gown. And the decision on whether or not to purchase a class ring.

Just as important: the yearbook.

It should come as no surprise that I was the editor of the yearbook at the Aquinas Institute of Rochester for my senior year in 1973. I had my own darkroom at home and took a lot of the photos for it. We had a working agreement with Varden Studios for the senior portraits, and the company also provided professionals who covered sports and other activities.

We had a faculty adviser who agreed with just about anything we proposed, including a “literary section” and cartoons.

That’s a far cry from what happened last week at a North Carolina high school.

The Richmond Early College High School recalled its yearbooks after school administrators deemed multiple comments “inappropriate.”

Among them was a quote, attributed to President Donald Trump, reading “Build that wall” next to a senior’s portrait, according to The New York Daily News.

“We regret that this incident has occurred and are currently working with the yearbook’s publisher to make corrections,” the Richmond County School district said in a statement.

Corrections? How do you “correct” someone’s opinion?

School district spokeswoman Ashley Michelle Thublin said there was more than one controversial comment in the yearbook but wouldn’t elaborate.

“There were several inappropriate comments that were made. We are not specifying what they were because in our opinion, if it’s not appropriate to say in the yearbook, it’s not appropriate to say out loud,” she told the Daily News.

“Only a handful of annuals were distributed before the mistake was discovered by the principal,” Thublin said in a statement. “Those were taken back up the same morning and the rest were not distributed.”

This controversy proves that all yearbooks [still] matter, so to speak.

Some schools have amazing works of art in or on their yearbook, said David Chivers, chief digital officer of Jostens, which produces class rings, yearbooks and other graduation items.

John Platts, CEO of Yearbook Life, a yearbook producer in Florida, said pricing on yearbooks varies, but “the big guys have really set the prices.” He estimates that a straightforward yearbook can cost from $65 to “well over $100,” according to a story posted by CNBC.

Advertising can help offset some of the cost, but while yearbooks have an almost eternal shelf life, their audience is small.

My school did not put the yearbook out to bid, as far as I know.

The photo studio was close by, and it had exclusive rights to the senior photos. They were published in black and white, but package deals on color prints suitable for framing were offered for sale.

As for the book itself, our tiny staff spent a lot of time after school with an adviser from the American Yearbook Company, now a division of Jostens. He did most of the layouts, although it had a cookie-cutter style of design. But it was a tremendous learning experience that helped create my career.

Students at Clarence High School are serious about their work. They have an online application form for students wishing to work on the yearbook. It’s brutally blunt.

“Slackers, jerks, immature goofballs, trouble makers, and whiny, needy students need not apply.”

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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