Staff finishes yearbook despite coronavirus obstacles; books to be mailed home instead of distributed

May 13, 2020 — by Andy Chen

Principal Greg Louie dropped into yearbook class right before school was suspended in March to discuss what was occurring with policies at the time.

With the cancellation of various games and events that the yearbook staff would have covered, reporters turned to outside sources for inspiration.

While most classes have adjusted to online learning by simply moving their curriculum online, the yearbook staff’s shift has required more complicated changes in order to adjust to the school’s closure — and finish the 316-page product by the final deadline. 

For most members of the Talisman staff, the coronavirus didn’t make a significant impact on direct production of the actual pages since they managed to meet their cycle deadlines throughout the year, getting roughly 80 percent of the book done by the time the virus closed schools in mid-March. Afterward, though, reporters had trouble gathering enough content to fill their spreads for the last cycle of the year.

According to senior Callia Yuan, one of the staff's three editor-in-chiefs, the staff had to cancel spreads for many events usually held during the second semester, including the spring musical, rallies and most notably, almost half of the spring sports. Yearbook photographers were also unable to take needed pictures due to the shelter-in-place order, severely limiting layout artists’ options when designing spreads.

“We were somewhat struggling when it came to material,” Yuan said. “It’s challenging when most of the events we cover aren’t happening anymore, and we can’t get any pictures because we’re all stuck at home.”

In an effort to introduce more content and cover students’ reactions to the coronavirus, the yearbook staff took inspiration from Humans of Saratoga High (HOSH) and encouraged students to submit pictures and descriptions of their daily lives during quarantine to be featured in the yearbook. To increase participation, journalism teacher Mikel Tyler offered extra credit for students in his newspaper and Journalism One classes to submit entries — ultimately, yearbook received over 15 submissions, contributing to an actual increase in content from last year.

The staff also increased their use of individual profiles, said senior Kai Zhang, who primarily made spreads for the yearbook. Since reporters only needed to interview one source, Zhang said online reporting made the process more direct and efficient.

Despite this, Yuan said that the use of profiles wasn’t completely reliable, since sources often didn’t see or chose to ignore reporters’ interview requests.

“There were definitely a lot of problems because it was really hard to reach people online, even through text or Facebook Messenger,” she said. “And it wasn’t just people we were trying to interview — it was also harder to keep the staff accountable. Often, it took more time and effort to contact them over something when we could do it ourselves.”

Additionally, although everyone on staff was able to download the necessary Adobe software, since Adobe has allowed home access for most of their applications because of the coronavirus, Tyler still had to print, edit, take photos of and email spreads back to editors, which he described as complicated and “cumbersome.”

“It was the most challenging yearbook to complete in my 23 years here,” Tyler said. “At times, I was not sure we could do it. Fortunately, key staff members put in a lot of extra time and effort to make sure the students got their yearbooks on time. They call daily newspapers the daily miracle; I would call this yearbook something akin to a miracle as well.”

In the face of these problems, Yuan said that yearbook’s incoming editor-in-chiefs for 2020-21, juniors Tiffany Huang, Jason Chin, Wilson Fung and Amy Zhang, played a vital role in finishing the yearbook. Considering online limitations and the increased responsibilities that came from their new position, the four managed to learn and achieve an impressive amount so far, Yuan said. 

The staff finished the yearbook minutes before their set deadline on midnight on April 27. When all was said and done, Tyler decided to have the yearbook publisher, Walworth, mail the yearbooks to students’ homes instead of doing the traditional distribution on campus, a necessary measure in face of the coronavirus. Yearbooks are currently being printed in Marceline, Missouri, so students should expect to receive their yearbooks later in May.

“It sucks that students won’t get to look at and sign each other’s yearbooks this year,” Yuan said. “I know that it’s disappointing, especially for seniors, but I really hope that students will still enjoy the end product, regardless of the coronavirus. We’re pretty proud of what we have.”


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