Reflecting on school yearbooks

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Greg Peck
June 11, 2013

Students in most every school around here are now in summer break. I imagine many or most high school students bought a yearbook, or annual, and had their classmates sign it—or will in the coming days.

I still have two such yearbooks—the one from my freshman year, 1972, at Marshall High School in Dane County, and the other from my senior year, 1975. Many classmates, friends and even teachers signed them for me. I have both of them in my filing cabinets adjacent to my basement computer station. From time to time, I’ve looked at them to reflect on a classmate or to cull a factoid for some of the historical writings I’ve done about my hometown. I wish I had all four annuals. I believe I bought one each year of high school, but if so, somewhere through life’s journey, I’ve lost the other two.

I wonder how many kids these days still buy these books, have fellow students sign them and will cherish them years from now. Maybe most printed yearbooks have given way to technology.

I saved a story from a year ago written by the Houston Chronicle. It reported that an Indianapolis-based producer of school yearbooks was turning to an online product in hopes of boosting sales and shoring up yet another industry that has been struggling in this digital era.

The venture from Herff Jones is called Stitch.Stitch. It provides a platform for schools to create online versions of yearbooks. Stitch allows students to personalize their online yearbooks throughout the year. Faculty advisers and yearbook staff can enrich and control the content.

Kim Green, a high school journalism adviser who tested Stitch, called it a “huge leap forward for yearbooks” and said there’s nothing else like it in the industry.

Green called the platform “a living, breathing tapestry during the school year that turns into a time capsule after each school year ends,” the Houston Chronicle reported.

I doubt I have many high school-age kids reading this blog. So tell me, parents. Are you still buying hard-cover yearbooks for your teenagers, or have these, too, gone online?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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