One for the (year)books

by Sophia Canabal and Lukas Goodwin

Connecting a photo upload account to the @hagertyjourn TikTok was a mistake adviser Brit Taylor would never make again. After a simple yearbook promotion video garnered 1.6 million views, the account’s inbox was spammed with Obama memes and Sonic the Hedgehog fan edits.

Professional photos have turned into blurry selfies, newspapers have turned into web links, and class “pow-wows” have turned into three-word text messages. The limited creative space for writers and photographers has raised many challenges. 

“Most of the topics I’ve considered writing about have already been covered or have fallen through,” newspaper editor-in-chief Zoey Young said. “This whole year, I’ve been grasping at straws.”

To compensate for the lack of event coverage, the yearbook and newspaper staffs have come up with unique content ideas, such as student profile TikToks, behind-the-scenes classroom videos, and online magazines.

“Our publications are gaining a lot of traction since they are available online. We’ve become more popular among the student body,” Young said.  

Despite the pros of growing a larger platform, virtual journalism has its own set of struggles. Many online staff members have felt disconnected from their staff and from school events in general. Newspaper news editor Sharika Khondaker grappled to communicate with teachers, peers and interviewees from home during an October press week, the crunch time before an issue’s scheduled release. 

“There were so many misunderstandings and bad scenarios that seemed impossible to fix remotely,” Khondaker said. “It hurt my confidence as a writer, editor and even as a staff member.” 

Even so, there is an upside to the world of online journalism. Seminole County has made Adobe accessible to journalism students at home this year, increasing flexibility. Students can now edit and create in Photoshop and InDesign at any time and any place. Additionally, all stories and edits are completed through Google Docs, allowing for quick and seamless changes.

“Now, we’re able to do more work from home, which saves time and makes everything more efficient,” newspaper print editor Luke Goodwin said. 

Likewise, the yearbook staff has struggled to fill pages, as over 600 student pictures were missing, and club photos nonexistent. Determining logistics for usually straightforward occurrences like picture day has become an Olympic sport, thanks to distance learning. 

“We have had three separate picture days this year,” Taylor said. “And we still are missing 400 pictures. It’s going to take a lot of work to fill all of that empty space.” 

Coronavirus has not been the only thing to disrupt Hagerty Journalism this year. A video posted on the Hagerty Journalism TikTok in September received over 230,000 likes and 1.6 million views. With this viral video came an influx of 2,000 followers, new fans from all across the United States and a drive to create more TikTok content featuring students and staff.

“Our TikTok going viral was legendary,” Khondaker said. “I had friends from other states texting me, ‘Isn’t this your school?’”

To add to the chaos, the intense political and social climate and push for change occurring all over the world recently has made journalism heated even for high school publications. Hagerty Journalism has covered many important events and movements from the past year, including Black Lives Matter, the raiding of the Capitol, and various Letters to the Editor from non-journalist students, mainly focused on politics. These stories received backlash from some, but Young still believes they were necessary.

“Our staff pulls inspiration for stories from real-world events. That’s the news people want to be reading,” Young said. 

One thing remains unchanged: the family environment maintained throughout the journalism program. From small birthday parties to “Staffer of the Month” celebrations, editors have done a lot to keep the morale of their staffs up and to show their gratitude. 

“Everything is weird, but I still feel really welcome and at-home with the staff,” online editor Charlotte Mansur said.