Developing Yearbook Stories
Everyone knows that a yearbook is more than just a bunch of class portraits—it’s a reflection of a specific time and place: your year at your school. And while photos play a huge part in documenting your year, feature stories add depth and dimension to the visual record.
So, what are you going to write about? If you’re struggling to find inspiration on developing yearbook stories or topics, check out our post on yearbook story idea generation, including a download of 101 Coverage Ideas.
Now you’ve got an idea for a fantastic story—you just need to refine it, get it out of your head and onto the page, and whip it into shape. The following steps will take you from inspiration to publication, whatever your topic may be.
1. Research, research, research — Read up on your topic, and talk to people to find out what they think about it. The first thing you want to do is make sure your topic will be interesting and relevant to your readers.
2. Decide what kind of story works best for your subject — Now that you know more about your subject, you can choose how you want to convey it. Certain topics lend themselves to certain types of stories. Here are five types of feature story to consider:
- Informational — This explains to readers how something works or how or why something happened. It could apply to anything from a new school policy to a lunch menu.
- Chronicle — This is an account of an event or happening in the moment, almost like a play-by-play for a sports event. A straightforward retelling of any event at your school—from prom night to a debate—could fall under this category.
- Profile — This common and versatile format is typically used to paint an in-depth picture of a person, e.g. a student, faculty member, administrator or staffer. But you don’t have to limit yourself to people—can you think of anything else to profile? What about your school’s mascot? A statue or sculpture on campus? Be creative!
- Perspective / In their words — This is another fun story approach, and one that gives readers a chance to see through someone else’s eyes. This can take the form of a Q&A, a transcribed conversation, or an as-told-by.
- Issues / Trends — This type of story takes something of current importance and places it in a broader context, be that school-wide, statewide or even nationwide. It could be something serious, like students dropouts, or something fun, like a hairstyle sweeping the halls.
3. Report — Once you know what kind of story you want to write, it’s time to start interviewing your sources. The people you want to talk to will have a lot to do with what type of story you chose. For example, for a profile, you’ll want to interview not only your subject (if human, of course), but people who are close to and who interact with your subject, whereas a perspective piece will likely only involve the person through whose eyes the story is being told.
4. Write your first draft — Now it’s time to get it all on paper. Both the format you’ve chosen and the results of your reporting will help shape the tone and focus of your story. Keep your audience in mind, and as you write, make sure your story answers every reader’s overarching questions: What are you telling me and why should I care? That may sound harsh (of course your story is terrifically interesting and important!), but everyone has a million things to do, and readers will want to feel that the time they’ve given your story is well-spent.
5. Revise and finalize — Read over what you’ve written, and have your editor do so as well. Are there any gaps? Unanswered questions? If so, go back and fill them in—even if that means doing additional reporting.
These five steps will have you well on your way to a top-notch yearbook filled with fascinating stories that everyone will love to read!
Bonus: Here are a couple handy checklists you might find helpful for reference while crafting your stories:
A great feature story should:
- Be important and interesting
- Be relevant to your audience
- Explore deeper themes
- Capture emotions
- Contain an element of surprise
Five principles of journalism:
- Truth and accuracy—always make sure your facts are straight
- Fairness and impartiality—remain free of any biases in both reporting and writing
- Independence—remain free from influence and disclaim any conflict of interest
- Humanity—don’t exploit your subjects. (This is especially important in yearbooks, when the privacy and emotional well-being of young people might be at stake.)
- Accountability—you are responsible for everything you write