Yearbook disaster in Phoenix. The Ghosts of Errors Past

imageMANILA: After its yearbook disaster, Barry Goldwater High School as Top 28 in Arizona is dead. Can BGHS rise again, like the Phoenix?

"Most Memorible Experience" is horrible. Wrong spellings, capitalization errors, misplaced text, wrong page references, missing pictures, even wrong volume number and year on the spine – that describes the 2013-2014 yearbook of the Barry Goldwater High School; it's a "book of blunders," says Kristen Keogh (16 May 2013, This one is a "book of wonders" because it's unbelievable. The BGHS campus is found in Phoenix, Arizona. The BGHS has had award-winning yearbooks in the past; will this Phoenix rise again from its ashes?

BGHS student Ashtyn Dial said, "There's a lot of mistakes in it." Each student paid $70 for a copy of this yearbook of errors. Senior student Teresa Martinez said, "There (are) a whole (bunch) of typos and I (have) a friend who (has) her name seven times in the yearbook and every single time it (is) misspelled." And "Principal" is misspelled as "Principle."

The CEO of Grads Photography, which printed the book, apologized in a public statement, saying, "We are truly sorry for the cover that has the wrong year, the school and our company both failed to catch that error. The student that was affected by writing on her image is also an extremely regrettable situation." BGHS has issued stickers to cover up the misprints, but they couldn't cover up the anger and frustration of many parents and students.

If you have a ghost / But you don't want to play host / You can't sleep at all / So, who do you call? (Ghostbusters!)

Can you bust the ghost hiding there? It should read, "So, whom do you call?"

The Deer Valley Unified School District that has jurisdiction over BGHS apologized for the School in a statement (Mike Watkiss, 16 May 2014,

We would like to sincerely apologize for the issues concerning the yearbook this year. We recognize that you purchased a yearbook and your purchase is a valuable investment in the continuation of the yearbook program. The yearbook staff spent countless hours putting the yearbook together and we humbly ask for your forgiveness and understanding and not direct blame and criticism toward the school. While we try to make every effort to ensure perfection, unfortunately, some mistakes were made. For that, we are truly sorry. Thank you for your time and understanding with this situation, please continue to support the yearbook and it's (sic) dedicated staff.

"That's not acceptable," parent Norma Quinn said. "We want a true product. Not a haphazard product." No Ma'am, it's not acceptable – what the District has given is a poor excuse for an excuse!

Did the yearbook staff really spend countless hours putting the yearbook together? Of course they did! But they did not spend countless hours poring over the pages looking for errors and correcting them. This teacher cannot forgive them. "We humbly ask (that you do) not direct blame and criticism toward the School" – that's like saying "Do not blame the studio for its photography!"

As a certified high school teacher in 1965, and as a professional writer, editor and publisher from 1975 until now, having myself desktop-published about 40 issues of technical journals and 14 books of my own (10 published), I know without asking any question that in high school (or college), there is no one to blame but both the Editor and the Adviser for command responsibility; the Editor specifically for failing to check on content and construction, which became the ghosts, and the Adviser specifically for failing to be the Ghostbuster.

What about Grads Photography, the printer? In these days of desktop publishing and camera-ready pages, the printer has nothing to do with substance and style – you can blame the photographer for a bad picture, but not for a bad face.

I wouldn't be surprised if the young high school yearbook staff simply allowed a layout artist to do all the work and, having done that, allow him to submit to the printer the finished product. Guilty as hell.

As far as yearbooks are concerned, the adults are equally guilty. In my own country and at my own university last year, in Laguna at the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Golden Jubilarians in charge of the yearbook – I will not crucify them by naming them or crucify myself by specifying their gender – failed to watch over the shoulders of the layout artist or the sample prints of our Yearbook 2013 and so failed to notice the big mistakes, which I pointed out in my email dated 13 October 13, as follows:

"COLLEGE OF VETERINARY MEDECINE" (this was on page 45, top of the page)
"DISTINGUISED" (this mistake was repeated on pages 30, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39, 41, 45, 47)

Those were printed in really big fonts! They also printed stickers to cover up the mistakes. I saw those unforgivable errors only after the yearbook came out in print, because they didn't show me their work-in-progress.

I also said in my email, "I think it is time to EXTINGUISH mediocrity in the yearbook by engaging the DISTINGUISHED!"

That was a double entendre, as I had been eased out, not ever so gently by email, as the volunteer editor cum desktop publisher of that yearbook.

Now then, being for the last 36 years editor of published books, journals, newsletters and (almost a) yearbook, and specifically being for the last 26 years an editor using software (Microsoft) for writing, editing and publishing, my collected experience tells me this:

 If you want perfection, you have to work for it.

If you want to be a perfect Christian, you have to sacrifice blood, sweat and tears. Excellence is in the details, and everything is detail. If you want to be a perfect Editor, you have to sacrifice time, talent and treasure over every single word and punctuation, every single image and text – and you have to do it over and over and over again. Exactly like love. You hate to do it over and over again? Practice on love.

"I thought it was a little bit irresponsible that they didn't at least proofread everything to make sure that it was right," student Teresa Martinez said. Teresa, in fact, you have to proofread again and again and again until your eyes hurt. In publishing, this Editor will tell you that every pain is a gain again and again.

Typos like memorible for memorable and principle for principal tell me those high school yearbook staff don't use enough their grammar & spelling checker in their software – it happens to the best! In times like this, the best is not good enough. If you aren't perfect, you have no business in any publication.

That is because the sad & bad reality is that:

You cannot exorcise The Ghosts of Errors Past.

So, here's a modern lesson for high school, college and alumni publications in your United States and in my Philippines, which takes after American English:

The layout artist cannot sleep on the job; the editor cannot let errors slip by; and the adviser cannot suffer fools gladly!

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