How much for that memory?

schoolboys

$60

That’s how much a memory costs at Liberty High School, outside Dallas. Well, a package of memories. Pictures and words on paper and bound between two hard covers.

A yearbook. And last week, an article by Jessica Meyers in the Dallas Morning News pointed to the yearbook as another victim of the decline of print.  It hadn’t occurred to me that the yearbook has many of the same weaknesses as the newspaper — and some the newspaper doesn’t have — before my friend Sarah pointed out this article. But it makes perfect sense.

Add to the $60 price tag the fact that moments can now be captured and stored with such ease at such little cost — and multiply that by the fact that, unlike older Americans, high school students have no loyalty to print and, well, you do the math; it was never my specialty. Half of Liberty High’s students bought yearbooks this year, but according to the article, that’s way above average.

My favorite quote from the story, included to illustrate the mindset of today’s iPod-packin’ teens, is surreal:

“I don’t think memories should cost anything,” said Liberty senior Paul Tee.

(We know that memories don’t really cost anything. On the other hand, listen to Sinatra sing “One For My Baby.”)

My high school memories go back to the mid-’70s. I don’t remember how much our yearbooks cost, but recently they got a second life. In January, two schoolmates set up an alumni site on Ning. One of the first things my friend Giselle (we go back to 5th grade) did, was reach for the yearbooks. Then she scanned a mess of pictures and posted them on line.

If even we print-bound boomers are launching our school pictures into the cloud, how much more so those high schoolers who think in digital terms anyway.

[EDIT: I wondered what would happen if scanners disappeared. I checked with my friend Lori, a designer at a big Philadelphia newspaper. She believes that “any designer worth her salt needs to have a scanner for archival photos and certain other things. I don’t think we’ll see their complete extinction any time very soon.”]

So what it comes down to is the medium. Maybe it won’t always be a book. Schools are starting to  put yearbook content on DVDs. I read someplace that a DVD yearbook costs $10. Not sure how people would sign your yearbook, but there’s probably some ways to to that, too.

While I was surprised to learn that yearbooks are in decline, I’m not going into mourning for them.  Nor am I moved by the correlation between yearbook demand and the odd, virus-like thing called school spirit.

On that score, the article quotes Linda Drake, the Journalism Education Association’s yearbook adviser of the year who is also on the National Scholastic Press Association’s board of directors. “But I have issues with kids saying they can’t afford [a yearbook] and then buying a pair of $100 jeans. I don’t see the school spirit. I don’t see the school camaraderie. ” she said.

Linda may not see it because the kids have a choice. Tarleton State College in Stephensville, Texas, isn’t making that mistake. To raise camaraderie, school spirit and yearbook sales,  it “imposed a mandatory $25 fee to all undergraduate students,” the article said.

Maybe it was because I went to a Quaker school that we weren’t harangued about school spirit. The Quaker way is to wait until the spirit moves you and, until then, please keep quiet. Besides, it was the ’70s and there were other things on our minds.

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1 Comment

Filed under books, communications, popular culture, print

One response to “How much for that memory?

  1. Sarah

    David you make some good points but school spirit goes a little deeper than just a cheer here and there. It’s about loyalty. Kids these days (and remember I was born in 75 so I’m not THAT old) have no loyalty to ANYTHING. School spirit, especially in an inner city school, to me, is just one more piece of armor against the streets. Get a kid involved (i.e. school spirit) and they are a little less likely to go gang banging right after the bell rings.
    My students agree for the most part with me. They really like the idea of their yearbook and the fact that they can sign the back. They don’t want me to go to the DVD version completely. My coworker suggests a supplemental DVD and that is truly the best of both worlds .
    The kid that said “Memories shouldn’t cost anything..” just doesn’t realize that everything costs. Thousands probably millions of dollars go into “memories” whether it be a souvenir, a camera to take pictures (and believe me camera equipment can cost a small fortune) or anything that “captures a moment”.

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