Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Rethinking the Yearbook: Should Every Student Get 'Equal Time' in Their High School Yearbook?

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Rethinking the Yearbook: Should Every Student Get 'Equal Time' in Their High School Yearbook?

Article excerpt

The yearbook for Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in New Jersey has traditionally doubled as an unofficial social register: Students closely study the index of names in the back and count how many times they appear.

"If you're more popular, you're featured more; if you're not, you're barely seen" says Quentin Blackwell, 17, a co-captain of the football team who appeared five times last year. "It shows your status, where you are on the totem pole of high school."

Not anymore. This year, an editor is tracking how often each of the school's 1,400 students appears in the 325-page yearbook. The goal is for every student to appear twice, in candid photos or feature stories, regardless of whether he or she is the senior class president, the yearbook editor's best friend, or the student who comes late and leaves early.

"Everyone deserves to be remembered," says Lauren Williams, 17, a senior on the yearbook staff. "Whether they're a hugely popular kid or just in their own little group, they matter to someone."

Scotch Plains-Fanwood is one of many schools across the country remaking a tradition that has been criticized for reinforcing a hierarchy based on popularity. Many yearbook editors say they're trying to broaden their coverage and make sure everyone gets in.

One-Time-Per-Person Rule

At North Brunswick Township High School, also in New Jersey, the yearbook staff tracks down students who miss their official portrait sittings. Some large schools, like William R. …

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