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Creating yearbooks in a time of crisis


The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted every aspect of creating yearbooks.  Social distancing and public safety concerns have halted printing and complicated the distribution process. Economic downturn has advisers worrying about low yearbook sales.

And then there's the actual content. In a typical year, by mid-April, the yearbook staff would be making finishing touches on spreads they've worked on for months. Now, with proms canceled, spring sports seasons cut short and schools closed, many staff members are working late nights to produce a yearbook that documents the effects of the global pandemic in their communities and schools.

Students are scrambling to cut and add pages to reflect these changes. We spoke to students who were regularly driving to their school, parking in the lot and working from laptops for hours because that was the only way to access the school server with the software and files they needed to complete the book.

The challenges facing yearbooks has become a national story, drawing coverage from The Washington Post. 

“We’re documenting history and this is a huge historical moment,” said Samantha Berry, president-elect of Texas Association of Journalism Educators, and the adviser of Kodiak, the Bridgeland High School yearbook in Cypress, Texas.

Read the full story

Yearbook spreads about coronavirus


Because this work is so important, SPLC is showcasing COVID-19 yearbook spreads from around the country. We want to include yours!

To be featured, email SPLC Digital Strategist Danielle Dieterich at ddieterich@splc.org with the subject line "Yearbook." Be sure to include:
  • PDF of your spread
  • Name of your yearbook
  • School
  • City and state. 
See the coronavirus spreads

SPLC's Coronavirus Toolkit


SPLC has created resources to help you protect your newsroom and understand key legal issues while reporting on the coronavirus. It contains a letter reminding administrators student media is an "essential service" as defined by federal guidelines, plus guides for fighting censorship or other threats to your program, covering the coronavirus, managing your newsroom remotely and teaching online.
See the toolkit

Upcoming digital events with SPLC


Investigating Higher Ed Amid COVID-19
  • Time: Wednesday, April 22, 1 p.m. ET
  • Description: SPLC Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand will join Investigative Reporters and Editors to talk about investigative journalism on college campuses during the pandemic. Student journalists can dig deep when covering their own campuses, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Learn how to investigate higher education with a focus on essential data and documents. Also, hear about higher ed stories that can be done in any student newsroom. 
  • Register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NcNLWKXhR2mrG-BLoO2wLA
Free Press on Campus and COVID-19: A Leadership Roundtable with Student Journalists
  • Time: Friday, April, 24
  • Description: Join PEN America's Campus Free Speech Program and SPLC in a roundtable with student press leaders from 8 universities as we discuss ways to navigate this crisis and safeguard free expression and a free press in these turbulent and uncertain times.
  • Register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_W-nitXJ1S3SQ7tGGpBs6cQ
Virtual Speakers Bureau
Want a full media law lesson? Book an SPLC expert through our Virtual Speakers Bureau to teach a 40-minute lesson to your class or newsroom via Zoom. Select a topic and a time here:
Book a speaker

Q: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, our community is practicing social distancing, so school board meetings are now held via videoconference. Our administration requires anyone who wants to attend a meeting to complete a registration form, which is then used to determine who gets to participate. This isn’t just entering a password to access the videoconference call. Is it legal for the school administration to enforce this requirement?

A: If school board meetings continue to occur during the pandemic, being able to freely access to them should not change. Adding special attendance requirements during this time, such as completing a registration form, is likely illegal. You have a right to be present, though it is possible you have to exercise that right virtually using technology. But COVID-19 cannot be cited as an excuse to stop you from attending a meeting otherwise protected by your state’s open meetings law. Check out what your state law says in the Open Government Guide, a handy resource from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In California, for example, the Bagley-Keene Act and Brown Act prohibit attendance to be conditioned on registering for the meeting, filling out a questionnaire, signing an attendance list, or providing other information — doing so is purely voluntary.

See previous Ask SPLC answers

Help us recognize courageous student journalism


Nominate students by May 22, 2020 for SPLC's high school journalism and college journalism awards to recognize exceptional efforts in fighting for student press freedom.
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