The first hurdle to telling good yearbook stories is developing good yearbook story ideas.
That might sound obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important of a skill. In fact, developing good yearbook story ideas is an underrated aspect to improving your yearbook overall. But it’s not without its challenges.
Your yearbook is similar to a monthly magazine or quarterly publication when it comes to telling a good story. You need to cover major events, like the championship game or the homecoming dance, but, by the time the yearbook comes out, that event is old news and everyone has lived it (and relived it).
That means you need a unique angle, a storyline that offers your reader something they never knew before.
Anyone can do that, but it takes a process to get there.
Inside this post, we’ll walk you through that process and show you how you can develop great yearbook story ideas on your own.
Why You Need a Process to Develop Yearbook Story Ideas
When it comes to shaping your yearbook coverage and generating yearbook story ideas, there’s no shortage of topics to choose from. In fact, we’ve got a list of 90 different high school yearbook article ideas. (Try cramming all those into a single yearbook, huh?)
But, really, those ideas are best used as a place to begin your brainstorming. That’s because every school is different—and, perhaps even more importantly, every student on your yearbook team will look at a topic differently.
Take all those different viewpoints and you’ve got yourself a whole bunch of great ideas … and hardly any room to cover them.
See, from a journalism perspective, yearbook stories are short. That means you need to stay really focused on telling the story. Otherwise, you’re going to create something that takes the reader all over the place, yet ultimately leads them nowhere.
So, there needs to be a constant voice in the writer’s head: What does this add to the story I’m trying to tell? How does keeping this piece of information in the story help my reader?
The way to clear the hurdle of finding a story is through good reporting.
Use This Process for Finding Great Yearbook Story Ideas
Some students are naturals at it, but reporting on stuff they’re intimately familiar with (or people they’re really close with) can be awkward for others. They’re living these stories on a daily basis, which can make spotting good story ideas more difficult. When something is routine, it can be less “newsworthy” to that person.
To help overcome that problem, use this process:
- Pick an event you’re going to cover.
- Write out all the cliches associated with that event, along with everything everyone is likely to know. Make it a rule that you’re going to avoid that stuff as a core part of your story.
- Brainstorm a list of questions (maybe 10-15) that you have about the event. They could be big or small. The goal is to start thinking about the event as an outsider, and not someone who lives it every day.
- Refine that list until you have one or two really specific questions, where you would say, “Whoa. I really want to know the answer to that.”
- Ask yourself whether finding out the answer to that is feasible and whether it helps achieve the larger objective/theme keeping the yearbook together.
When you and your students can say, “Whoa. I really want to know the answer to that.” and “Yeah, we can totally find out the answer to that.”, you’ve got a bonafide yearbook story idea. Start reporting on it.
This process works so well that you’ll likely end up with with more yearbook story ideas than you can handle for a single year. That’s OK. Pick your favorites (or those that best align with your theme), and save the rest of them. Do that a few years in a row and you’ll not only teach your students how to spot stories, but you’ll start collecting a whole list of possible ideas you can execute on.