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With Desktop Publishing, School Newspapers and Yearbooks Turn a Page

Computers: Cut-and-paste is passe. Using modern software helps produce crisp-looking publications and gives students experience valued in workplace.

March 16, 1998|LISA FERNANDEZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Glue and scissors won't cut it anymore for many Ventura County school newspaper and yearbook editors.

Students are turning to the computer--and complex software such as QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop and Pagemaker--to help them create better work--and to learn the latest tools of the publishing trade.

"We used to cut and paste, and send it off to a plant where they'd shoot it," said John Reed, a desktop-publishing teacher at Simi Valley's Royal High School and a former award-winning magazine publisher. "But you'd get crooked headlines and ugly pictures. It was a real rough process."

Now, Reed's students use computers to produce the school's annual 280-page yearbook, basketball programs and picture-laden booklets of teacher biographies.

They have even branched out to produce the winter activities catalog for the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District and brochures for the city's Chamber of Commerce.

Computers also have revolutionized yearbook production at Thousand Oaks High School.

The school is testing new software that allows the yearbook staff to compile pictures and video clips on compact discs and sell the CDs as a supplement to or replacement for the traditional paper edition.

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Thousand Oaks High students will be offered custom-made CD memoirs that will include the ability to scan images, videotape the marching band and design a "paintbrush" page for friends to sign one another's discs, said Stewart Dell of YearDisc, a Thousand Oaks company.

"This has educational advantage," he said. "We give them the computer hardware and software, and the students are walked through the authoring process. They make the artistic choices."

It's not only yearbooks that are looking better, thanks to the computers. School newspapers have been bitten by the high-technology bug as well.

Nearly all high schools in the county--including Thousand Oaks, Oxnard and Hueneme--have done away with paste-up tables and are using desktop-publishing programs.

"When I was in high school, we did it by hand," said Ventura High School journalism teacher Lorelei Gustafson. "You needed the eye for it to make sure everything fit."

But who needs the headache? she asked. The computer makes putting out a newspaper much easier, she said.

And the result is that schools' newspapers look cleaner and more professional, said sophomore Varun Saxena of Thousand Oaks High School, where the latest edition of The Lancer features a look at the campus since the 1960s.

Varun and his classmates said, however, that even though the newspaper looks better because of the computer, it still takes as long--if not longer--to produce.

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Computer glitches crop up all the time, he said, half-laughing about scores of deleted files that have plagued The Lancer's editors in the last several months.

There is no need to lament the loss of traditional methods, said Brian McKenna, a teacher at Hueneme High School. He said the school's yearbook and newspaper "went digital" seven years ago.

"Do we have to be sad that we're not hunters and gatherers anymore?" he asked. "Let's get with the times and teach these kids something employable."

Reed from Royal High also said that using the computer as a production and design tool helps prepare students for the marketplace.

As an example, one recent Royal High graduate is working for a desktop-publishing company in Pasadena, making $35,000 a year designing game boxes, Reed said. Some of Reed's current students are making money by working for computer companies designing Web pages.

"Some of my students get really good jobs," Reed said. "More and more kids are becoming aware that there is a market for these skills."

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