Coping with Coronavirus

Meghan Percival and Daniel Reinish

COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2. Novel coronavirus. No matter what the experts are calling it, communities across the Commonwealth are preparing for its impact.

Student journalists should be ready, too. Instead of wondering what to do if COVID-19 affects school operations, our best piece of advice is to start thinking about what you and your students will do when this happens.

We don’t mean to be alarmist. But sometimes, the best way to combat all of the impending unknowns is to know that you have a plan!

This is especially true for all of our colleagues and students who are trying to finish up their yearbooks. The bottom line is this: the yearbook will still be published. Here are some tips to weather the next few months as smoothly as you can.

The 2020 Book: Completion

Time

Do you have upcoming teacher planning days? Is your building open on weekends? The first priority is to stay safe and follow the directions from authorities. But if you can, take advantage of any extra work time that might be available to your staff over the next few weeks.

Tech

Does your staff use your publisher’s online design tools? Then your students can work from home easily. Make sure you have a Group Me or some other communication mechanism in case your staff has to wrap up production from home.

If you use desktop software like InDesign, talk to your tech support staff about getting it installed on a few laptops that your editors can take home to work on in an emergency. Don’t forget fonts and plugins. And be sure to ask your tech staff whether students will need VPN access or anything special to get to their files.

Content

Events that haven’t happened yet: If you were waiting to cover something in March, cover the coronavirus instead.

Spring Sports: Assume that seasons may be cancelled. Try to get candids in the next week or two, even if they are just practice photos. That will still tell the story of this school year! (Also check with your school photographer to see when team photos will be taken.)

Outsource: We’re all in this together. Reach out to spring sports teams, coaches, parents, teachers, Photo students, newspaper kids, Journalism 1 students – ask for them to contribute.

Simplify: There may be some mods or “extra” pieces of coverage that would be nice to have that your group will have to sacrifice. That’s life, and that’s ok.

The Spring Supplement

Depending on the timing, you may still be able to cover an abbreviated sports season. If that doesn’t work out, or you have extra space to fill, consider producing a mini-mag about the many impacts of the coronavirus.

Selling Books

Does your publisher have an online sales platform? If not, does your school have a website where parents can pay for books, uniforms, lunch money, etc.? Getting your yearbook online means sales can continue even if students are not in the building.

The most important thing is to keep your sales campaigns going. If you haven’t done a clean-up sale, pull together email addresses, run mailing labels, print last chance order forms, etc. Start gathering the things you would normally do for end-of-the-year targeted marketing NOW.


The next few months will present new challenges for many of us in the student journalism world. The best we can do right now is plan, have a strategy for continuing the job at home, and adapt our expectations as needed for the final product.

And remember, we have an entire community of advisers here at VAJTA who are ready and willing to share advice. Comment below with questions or any tips of your own!