LJWorld.com weblogs Something Done Right

Ding Dong the Yearbook is Dead


After 13 years teaching journalism I have come to expect a call from a reporter in the fall. One year the question was “Is Facebook replacing the high school yearbook?” Another it was “Is the economy causing orders for yearbooks to dwindle?” Basically the questions translate into “Is the high school yearbook dead?”

I have always scoffed at the notion that the newest social fad (whether VHS/DVD yearbooks, Facebook, etc) will replace a tangible piece of journalistic history. However for the first time in all of these years I find myself changing my answer...

Quite possibly the high school yearbook maybe dead in Kansas.

However if it dies it won’t be because of social media or the lack of yearbook sales. Instead, the greatest threat to the high school yearbook and newspaper is the Kansas Department of Education that in 2012 will eliminate career and tech education funding for journalism classes (also broadcast and printing classes).

This state CTE funding helps support the increased cost of technology used by and lower enrollment in j-classes. This is the same funding given to auto-tech, home ec, photography, business, drafting, etc. While most high school newspaper and yearbook staffs raise the money for publishing (in Free State High School’s case ~$60,000), state CTE funding pays for the technology used to create the publications: computers, software, cameras, etc.

According to KSDE, journalism funding has been cut because they don’t see journalism as a viable career. In short, the way the state sees it journalism courses do not meet new standards of preparing students for “high demand,” “high skill,” and “high wage” careers.

While these standards seem laudable, in actuality (the way the terms have been defined) the bar has not been set very high for two of the three criteria and too high for the other.

“High skill” has been defined in Kansas as any occupation that requires advanced certification or higher education beyond high school. Journalism meets this requirement. “High wage,” while sounding like a high standard, is actually defined as 200% of the federal poverty level or approximately $20,000 or $13.75/ hour. Journalism meets this requirement as well.

The rub comes in how KSDE has chosen to define “high demand.” “High demand” in Kansas is an occupation projected to grow more than 14%. In a down economy many Kansans would be happy to see their occupations not lose ground. In New York state, “high demand” is defined as any occupation that is projected to add more workers than those needed to replace current workers.

Paradoxically some occupations with less than 14% projected growth will remain funded by KSDE because of their strong connections to Kansas culture (farming) or their integral role they play in other occupations (photography and education).

Journalism educators have been told “The lack of state funding for [journalism] courses ... does not mean they cannot be offered” in Kansas high schools. This statement comes off as a pat on the head. Some schools will be able to afford to continue their journalism programs without CTE funding. However many schools will not, and those are often times the schools with the least resources to replace journalism with other electives.

When it comes to trying to save money, it would seem that journalism is an efficient way to expose and train students in more than eight future occupations. When we are talking about spending our Kansas CTE dollars better, eliminating these courses is short-sighted and shows a disregard for the current challenges districts face in preparing students for a 21st Century workforce. Kansas high school journalism alumni have found employment in all of the following careers, but that does not seem to matter to KSDE. • Writers & Authors (15% growth) • Broadcast & Sound Techs (8% growth) • Audio & Video Techs (13% growth) • Photographers (12% growth) • Public Relations (24% growth) • Technical Writers (18% growth) • Graphic Designers (13% growth) • Advertising Sales Agents (7% growth) *according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics

State officials have presented this decision as a “done deal” by saying the move is a requirement of the 2006 federal Perkins funding legislation (Perkins IV outlines what requirements states have to meet in order to receive federal career and tech ed funding). However Perkins just doesn't say any such thing.

Interesting other states aren’t discontinuing career and tech ed funding for journalism courses (ie Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee). It appears that other states haven’t been told about this “requirement” by the federal government.

Unfortunately for Kansas journalism programs the KSDE doesn't truly know what is going on in modern journalism classrooms. The journalism classroom of today is a beehive of various technical activity. Students are taught hard skills via audio/ video editing, design, photography, advertising sales, and use of professional grade software like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. In addition, students learn the soft skills business and industry leaders have identified as essential in a 21st century work environment.

The KSDE’s webpage on CTE refers to a 2006 study which asked business and industry leaders what are the most important skills for job success when hiring a high school graduate. Overwhelmingly the response was: work ethic, collaboration, communication, social responsibility, and critical thinking & problem solving skills. In addition, to advanced technical skills, journalism students learn these five skills in spades by creating something tangible with meaning to their lives.

If you disagree with the KSDE’s decision to eliminate funding for journalism and broadcast, please contact your elected officials. Let them know that Kansas students learn valuable career and technical skills for the 21st century workplace and KSDE should include journalism courses in their redesign of CTE.

Kansas Board of Education Members Janet Waugh
State Board District 1
(913) 620-5062 (c)

Sue Storm
State Board District 2
(913) 642-3121(h)

John Bacon
State Board District 3
(913) 660-0392 (h)

Carolyn Wims-Campbell
State Board District 4
(785) 266-3798 (h)

Sally Cauble
State Board District 5
(620) 624-6677 (h)

Kathy Martin State Board District 6 (785) 463-5463 (h) martinkathy@yahoo.com

Kenneth Willard State Board District 7 (620) 669-0498 (home) kwillard@cox.net

Dr. Walt Chappell State Board District 8 (316) 838-7900(w) chappellhq@chappell4ksboe.com

Jana Shaver State Board District 9 (620) 331-1452 (home) jshaver@cableone.net

David Dennis State Board District 10 (316) 650-0152 (c) dtdennis@swbell.net


Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 7 months ago


Thanks for sharing this story. It's one that needs to be told. I'm a product of a vibrant high school journalism program with an outstanding advisor — one who inspired many to consider careers in journalism. Since then, most of my classmates have gone on to be lawyers, accountants and scientists, but most of them cite their high school journalism classes as having given them valuable skills in those fields as well. I think it would be a grave mistake to eliminate the state funding for journalism classes.

Michael Stanclift 7 years, 7 months ago

I could quote word for word exactly what Jonathan said. The programs at both LHS and FSHS are great and befitted from a strong advisor (Mrs. Nelsen AKA Ms. Attebury) for a long time, which is now carried on by her successors. Even though I decided not to go into journalism as a profession, the tools and skills I gathered as editor of the newspaper staff at FSHS prepared me for the responsibilities of the real world more than anything else I did in high school.

I even met my wife in newspaper class! To me that was probably worth it all ;)

It would be an epic mistake to cut funding for such programs.

Michael Stanclift 7 years, 7 months ago

*benefited from a strong advisor... looks like I could benefit from my own personal copy editor today ;)

hhooper2 7 years, 7 months ago

I have been a journalism teacher for six years at Highland Park HS in Topeka. We have been part of the vocatonal program for the past five years. Without vocational funding we would not have been able to afford to upgrade our computers, software, or purchase equipment like digital cameras. This funding is vital to our long-term survival.

I've had several meetings with RJ Dake at the Deptartment of Education, who has told us that anything related to print, newspaper or yearbook will not be funded after 2012. He likes to point to the decline of the newspaper industry as justification for this action. Why would we want to train students for a job that's been in a sharp decline for the past several years?

We journalism teachers have tried to point out that our classes are not just training grounds for a dying industry. All print media is in a state of transformation right now wth the emphasis on convergence with the web. More interactivity, podcasts, audio broadcasts, and social media will combine to create news products of the future.

Interactive readers like ipad and Kindle will be the wave of media consumption in the future. Online readership has gone up tremendously. And someone must compile, write and display that information. We would like to hope that our students could be that person.

The Topeka 501 journalism teachers have been working diligently on this issue for the past year. We are hopinig that by taking the dreaded "J-word' out of our course names that maybe we can reinvent oursleves to remain viable in the vocational program.

We will try to put the emphasis on our process, which is very technical, rather than the product (newspaper or yearbook). So our classes may be called Emerging Technolgies, or Digital Communications - but the spirit of sound journalistic training will still be there.

Our fingers are crossed as we try to make this transition. Otherwise, we too may be saying goodbye to a tradition that's been telling the Highland Park story for 87 years.

Heather Hooper Journalism Adviser HPHS

abeasonmanes 7 years, 7 months ago

I am in my third year of advising middle school publications in Topeka, and I have to say that teaching journalism has been just as rewarding and educational as participating scholastically was as a teen.

Like others who have posted, I was a newspaper staffer all through high school, and it was my thing. Most of my best memories come from the journalism room, and not just because it was fun, but because we were making a difference in our school and learning skills and lessons we weren't getting anywhere else. As the advertising editor, I learned about communication, collaboration, sales, and public relations. I got great experience in all types of writing, learned about the newest technologies in software and camera equipment, and built relationships with my fellow staff members and advisers. These are the skills and experiences I now expose my own students to.

Now, I know I went on to become a journalism teacher while most of my other staffers did not (although one other did!), but among us are now teachers, medical students, law students, psychologists, accountants, bankers, etc (many of us still friends). I know if you asked them, they would tell you about the skills they gained while in journalism that are completely necessary to their professions today.

All of this controversy, to me, is certainly upsetting. Too much emphasis is being placed on the possible professional paths of students and not enough on all that they gain in these much-loved courses. I didn't become a mathematician, but I still took something away from calculus. I'm certainly not a chef, but taking that intro foods class taught me basic and valuable skills. As long as our courses continue to be valuable in the sense that they are teaching necessary skills and creating educational experiences for students, then they are valid.

I hope the J-courses start to be looked at from a new perspective.

KSManimal 7 years, 7 months ago

Sam Brownback spoke to the associated press this week, outlining his plan to destroy public education in Kansas.

Among his strategies are for the state to only fund "the basics" - read that as reading, writing, and 'rithmatic.

Yes, things are bad now in public education. But, in Brownback's world, every extra-curricular and every "non-core" subject (music, art, you name it) would join the yearbook six feet under.

And don't forget, Brownback's world is only 6,000 years old...so he thinks.

Of course, Brownback's vision doesn't have to come true. There is a great way to avoid it :)

sciencegeek 7 years, 7 months ago

Bet he won't want any science taught, either!

kneiman 7 years, 7 months ago

Work ethic, collaboration, communication, social responsibility, and critical thinking & problem solving skills? You've just described every journalism classroom I know.

Ralph Gage 7 years, 7 months ago

This sort of smells like payback for the light (and heat) the media have focused on KSDE and the board. Nah, surely couldn't be anything of that sort!

Kent Fisher 7 years, 7 months ago

Unfortunately, print journalism isn't a high wage job anymore. Just ask the LJWorld employees who have all been capped to a wage slightly above poverty level.

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 7 months ago

Journalists certainly don't do the job for the money, but, as KSDE defines "high wage" journalism certainly qualified. From the article:

“High wage,” while sounding like a high standard, is actually defined as 200% of the federal poverty level or approximately $20,000 or $13.75/ hour.

noze4news 7 years, 7 months ago

The purpose of journalism education is to make our students better people. In addition to that, high school journalism classrooms teach students: to listen, to communicate effectively, to be ethical, and to present both sides of an issue. But most of all we teach them to adapt to the changing world around them. We are attempting to do this in our classroom through the creation of online newspapers, blogs, podcasts, and video posts on our publication’s websites. The individuals at KSDE are oblivious that high school publications no longer use light boards and create their publications through cut and paste methods. In high school journalism classrooms across the state, and the nation, students are using the same software and the same technology that professional publications are using. Our students have the skills that they could possibly enter the workforce after graduating high school. The publications schools produce across the state are of a professional quality. There is no democracy without journalism. Democracy will be eliminated in schools across Kansas if journalism funding is cut. The individuals at KSDE are only looking at the financial aspect of cutting journalism funds, and feel money would be better used in other Career and Technical Education areas. KSDE has said that school districts can pick up the costs of funding the programs. With the current education budget crisis that many school districts are facing, the last thing that districts want is fund a program that will cost thousands of dollars to upkeep (purchasing up to date software, computers, cameras, video equipment, etc). Many schools across the state can not afford to support these classes, resulting in the classes being dropped from the schools. Democracy will be eliminated because there will no longer be newspapers (whether they are published online or printed) and yearbooks. The individuals at the KSDE are under this misconception that journalism is dying, and journalism advisers and professors are preparing students for a career that will no longer exist after they graduate. Journalism will always exist. Journalism is currently evolving into a different form (online journalism), and the KSDE refuses to acknowledge that form. The individuals at the KSDE said classes that teaches students how to create an online newspaper will not be funded, because the end product is a newspaper and journalism is a dying industry so students should not be taught those skills. KSDE also feels that an online newspaper class would not only focus on the development of a webpage, but it also focuses on journalistic writing. Since that class focuses on aspects of journalism it can not be funded. If journalism is a dying profession, why is the enrollment in journalism schools across the country on the rise? So why is Kansas the only state that is eliminating funding to journalism classes? Please contact members of the KSDE and demand that journalism education in Kansas be saved.

Chris_Pratt 7 years, 7 months ago

Not to disparage readin', ritin' and rithmatic, but journalism is one of the few direct skills students learn and can take into a career. All of the fundamentas are of course critical but journalism is one of the more specifc skills sets you can learn in school.

Kris_H 7 years, 6 months ago

Does it really matter if the news is delivered in print, online, or on the television or by other media?

It still needs to be accurate, timely and interesting. Certainly journalism skills must continue to be taught if we don't want to have "news-tainment" or complete propaganda as all we can obtain.

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