It’s Time for the Talk
At the close of the year, distribution day sounds like the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it’s not for the faint of heart. Or for the unprepared.
Justin Daigle has lived through a few distribution days as the adviser at Brighton High School in Brighton, Colorado, and he knows how to prepare his staff for the challenging moments. He knows when it’s time for “the talk.”
He begins with how they communicate with each other. Negativity comes from all directions, but should never come from the staff, he said.
“Let’s face it, each time we open the book, we find some new type of error: A misspelled name or word, a graphic in the wrong place, or a bar that’s blue instead of red. First, we have to accept the book is printed and we did the best we could,” the certified journalism educator said.
As Daigle reminds his staffers to leave behind their critical eyes once the ink has dried, he tells them to stay out of the comments section.
“If a student sees a negative social media post about the yearbook, I want them to be the bigger person and let it go. No staff member should post anything negative or passive aggressive about any incidents or feedback from the book,” he said.
Repeat: Do. Not. Engage. The. Haters.
And Daigle leads the charge. When those inevitable parent phone calls start, and when students post hateful comments about a page, he lets it go.
He teaches how to combat negativity by being proactive.
“I send an email to the school employees revealing the theme and the details about yearbook distribution. I ask them to squelch any negative comments they may hear in the halls or in their classrooms and redirect them to how fantastic the book is.”
Another tactic is to include a policy in each book. Staffers put them inside the front endsheet as they hand out books so buyers see they are there.
The policy sheet directs students to check the book for damages, apologizes in advance for typos and mistakes, and includes a statement about yearbook being the only class where work is published for all to see so proceed with complaints accordingly, as well as the staff’s policy against refunds.
There are, of course, legitimate issues, such as name misspellings or direct quote discrepancies. Daigle has a process for those as well.
“First, take a time out. Rather than getting defensive or angry, do your research, and if a mistake was made, own it and apologize,” he said.
Distribution day should be one of the greatest celebrations of the year, and if staffers are prepared for what they will experience, it can be.
“We spend hours upon hours upon hours working on our yearbooks until the final proofs are sent,” Daigle said, “so we become very close to it. We should prepare to celebrate the positive feedback while also putting systems in place to work through any negative criticism. The staff works too hard all year to let any negativity ruin anything we accomplished.”
Download a sample distribution policy here, and if you have your own, send it to us. We love to learn and to see what advisers everywhere are doing.
Justin Daigle, CJE, has advised the Reflections yearbook at Brighton High School in Colorado for 12 years. His students’ publications have earned state and national awards including CSPA Crowns and NSPA Pacemaker honors. Daigle was the 2009 Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) Teacher of the Year as well as JEA Rising Star in 2010 and Special Recognition (2014) and Distinguished (2016) Yearbook Adviser of the Year..
A well-trained yearbook staff is a finely tuned machine where everyone chips in to help so that deadlines are met and the book is the best it can be. Done well, it is a true testament to the power of working together as a team.
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