As others fail, GW yearbook survives

While the University of Virginia joined a growing number of colleges who have published their last yearbook, GW’s Cherry Tree yearbook staff began to expand production by reaching out to underclassmen for the first time this year.

Virginia’s “Corks and Curls” staff terminated yearbook production just one year before its 120th anniversary due to insufficient student interest and funding. Those two factors also plague yearbooks at college campuses including Georgetown and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, but staffers of The Cherry Tree say the yearbook will remain a strong tradition at GW.

The GW Alumni Association provides enough funding to make a yearbook for each senior, so generating sales revenue is not an issue for The Cherry Tree. And though the yearbook has always been for sale to all years, for the first time the staff will actively market The Cherry Tree for sale to underclassmen, at $75.

“We’ve been working with the Parents Association to advertise through the Parents Association [e-mail list],” Cherry Tree Editor in Chief Callie Meserole said.

Seniors’ remaining opportunities to sit for portraits — about 80 percent sat last year — are the weeks of February 22 and March 22.

This year’s edition of The Cherry Tree will be mailed in the fall to the addresses seniors list on GWeb.

Marissa Tonelli, a senior in the School of Public Health and Health Services, said that getting The Cherry Tree is something she looks forward to as a senior.

“Until now, it probably wasn’t as important to me, but now I think it would bother me if we had to lose our yearbook,” Tonelli said.

Tonelli plans to get her picture taken for the yearbook. She said if seniors had to pay for the yearbook, the price would determine whether or not she purchased one.

Gabrielle Partridge, who graduated from the Elliott School in December, said she did not know that she will receive a yearbook.

“I think it will be nice to have,” Partridge said. Still, she said she does not think she would purchase a yearbook if seniors had to pay for them.

As for those who produce the publication, there is no shortage of students interested in joining the staff.

Last summer, about 40 students applied for the yearbook’s 11 paid positions, Meserole said. Meserole attributes this interest in part to the University’s strong journalism program.

But Corks and Curls editors, too, had enthusiasm, said 2009 Editor in Chief Michelle Burch.

“We had great interest in keeping the book alive,” she said in an e-mail. But a dedicated staff was not enough. The 2009 staff began the year with plans to publish the next yearbook, but was forced to terminate production.

“It would take a completely different approach to bring it back to life in this digital world,” Burch said, adding she believes the increasing popularity of online social networking sites has contributed to the decline in yearbooks.

Angela Angelotti, a 2009 editor of Georgetown University’s “Ye Doomesday Booke,” said she doesn’t believe Facebook could ever replace a yearbook.

“I believe the yearbook to be the most important tool students have to remember college as a whole since there are always so many different things going on,” Angelotti said in an e-mail. The editor independently completed more than 300 pages of Georgetown’s yearbook last year.

She said she fears the Booke could meet the same end as Virginia’s yearbook if the publication does not receive funding from the school.

“The number of students who buy books is continually dropping, creating a serious problem for our budget,” Angelotti said.

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