“Crowning” achievement for DP “yerds”
By Michael Aling | Staff Writer
January 31, 2013
Monday, December 17th, 2012: In T-3, the “yerds” were going about their work. The hum of computer fans was in the air. Unbeknownst to the class, Mr. Dent was anxiously scanning his glossy screen, searching through a list. Suddenly, he shouted “Yes!” jumping and dancing around the room, telling any of the perplexed students who would listen that they had won.
But won what?
Dos Pueblos’s yearbook The Image had been announced as a finalist for Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s crown awards – described as “the Academy Award[s], yearbook edition.”
The crown awards are a series of honors for magazines, digital news sites, and yearbooks at both the scholastic and collegiate level. Seventy-eight yearbooks were finalists this year, and each will either receive either silver or gold. A total of 1,344 publications were eligible for the various awards.
Mr. Dent later reflected on his amazement at The Image‘s recognition: “Wow – we’re on the same list as them?”
“It was really funny, how excited he was,” said current yearbook editor Shannon Thoits about Mr. Dent, who serves as advisor for the publication. As Mr. Dent phoned last year’s editors to spread the news, Thoits realized, “Oh, now we have something even bigger to live up to for the 2013 book.”
Columbia University, responsible for the crown awards, also awards many other honors such as the Pulitzer Prize. For the past five years, The Image was entered into the contest, and each year, they received advice about what they could do better in some of the hundreds of categories that are considered. Finally, the advice has paid off.
“Obviously I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Mr. Dent said. “I wish I could take more credit, but the kids are the ones that do the work, not me.”
These kids affectionately call themselves “yerds” – yearbook nerds. The culture of the class is unique – “Unlike anything else on campus,” according to Thoits. “We are a mix between a sports team, a professional business, and a dysfunctional family.”
Really, that isn’t so surprising. Constructing a yearbook is an enormous process that requires insight, an eye for design, good photographers, great writers, and many days’ worth of work – and when people are in contact for so long, they tend to get pretty close.
The “yerds” work late after school and into the night, taking pictures at sporting events, editing the pictures, stockpiling food (they like to eat, and the classroom is always well supplied with Goldfish), staying up until one in the morning working on spreads, or “a great array of other things that cause my late departure that would only ever be caused by yearbook” – all the crazy things that come with the territory.
“The kids literally spend thousands of hours on these spreads,” said Mr. Dent.
An irony in this award is that the winners are announced a full year after the yearbooks are published, when most of the students that work on the books are long gone. Dos Pueblos will have to wait until March to get the final verdict.
It’s easy for a yearbook to be lackluster. Many fall prey to poor writing, stating the obvious instead of making the publication special to a certain year in a certain school.
To avoid this result, the staff of The Image takes a journalistic approach: they try to cover the year.
As such, images in the yearbook aren’t posed – they’re an accurate historical representation of the year. But these stunning photographs, of which The Image has no shortage, don’t make a yearbook on their own. Extensive consideration is put into the layouts, where the people in pictures face inwards on the page, encouraging students to continue reading, keeping the audience’s eyes on the page. The main colors from images on the page are echoed in text colors elsewhere on the spread. Each page has a similar structure, to give the book a sense of consistency from section to section.
At the bottom of all of this is the idea that the yearbook should be something you want to read. It’s been The Image‘s mission for years now, and at long last, it has been recognized. All that work has paid off. Now The Image will be nationally recognized, with yearbook teachers across the country pulling examples from its text, teaching what Dos Pueblos’s yearbook staff already learned, and telling their pupils that they should aspire to be like the Chargers.