Yearbook in peril

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April 13, 2007

12:02 PM

“They said that I was going to come to William and Mary and ‘take over the yearbook,’” junior Michelle Gannon said, thinking back to a running joke her high school buddies made because of the enthusiasm with which she took to her tenure as editor of their school’s award-winning yearbook. They were right.

p. Proving her friends correct, Gannon has since served as managing editor for the Colonial Echo for the last two years, overseeing every detail of the Echo’s publication from start to finish. Now, with her graduation next spring looming around the corner and with no successor in line, the College’s oldest running publication faces an uncertain future.

p. Because she has time-consuming plans to student-teach next semester, Gannon had hoped that this year would be her last with the Echo. However, in the organization’s annual officer elections, only one staffer ran to replace her, and the unopposed staffer has since withdrawn her bid for the position.

p. Gannon has since agreed to stay on staff for at least the 2007-2008 edition. If no one takes her spot after that, the Colonial Echo will be forced to miss a year for the first time in over a century for its 2008-2009 edition.

p. “There will be a yearbook next year,” Gannon said. “If there will be one after that, I don’t know. It’s possible it might not publish, but it’s a really sad thought.”

p. This is especially poignant at a time when the Echo’s quality is on the upswing.

p. “I think we’ve done a really good job bringing it up to a higher standard than it’s ever been,” Gannon said, referring to the many recognitions the yearbook has recently won, including the gold prize from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, which was awarded to the Echo last year for the first time since 1907.

p. “The College would hate for it to be lost, there’s no doubt about that,” Mark Constantine, assistant vice president for student affairs, said.

p. Constantine oversees the student publications committee and the groups it funds.

p. “This is a student initiative,” he said. “If no one is that interested, ultimately the publication would go away.”
Constantine cited what he perceived as a general nationwide trend moving away from yearbooks in higher education.

p. “Many schools have dropped them altogether,” he said.

p. As far as Gannon is concerned, the main problem facing the Echo right now is a top-heavy hierarchy that gives the managing editor too much work and too few rewards.

p. “If you’re the editor of The Flat Hat, that’s pretty cool. If you’re the editor of the yearbook, people are like — we have a yearbook?

p. It’s much more behind the scenes,” Gannon said.

p. After acknowledging that she has a great staff working for her, she goes on to explain that the workload is enough to keep anyone away.

p. “Basically, I kind of do everything that doesn’t get done. Proofs, copy-edit, work with the publishing company, answering phones — whatever,” she said.

p. On top of that, when writers shirk, the buck stops with her. She personally wrote 100 pages of last year’s 300-page edition.

p. “I am going to be studying abroad next fall in Singapore, but even if I were here, I would not be willing to take on responsibility for the entire yearbook. It is a ridiculous time commitment,” Echo staff writer sophomore Andrew Chan said.

p. In many schools, such as James Madison University, journalism and media arts major students flock to the yearbook staff in hopes of creating a layout and design portfolio that would be helpful in later job searches. The College does not offer these majors.

p. “They can take it as examples of their work. We don’t have that here,” Gannon said.

p. For now, Gannon is planning an organizational restructuring that would include delegating some of the managing editor’s duties to the section editors and perhaps creating two co-editor positions.

p. She also will actively try to find and train a successor.

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