Letter to the Editor

Jonathan Edewards, ’03

Maureen Darras is right: the root cause of Ariel’s struggles, which have evidently increased since I was an Ariel staff member from 2002-2004, is a waning of student desire for a college yearbook. The ubiquity of media in our information age, which has caused an increase in distraction and a decrease in quality, is certainly to blame. However, I would argue that students lose interest in the Ariel when 1) it’s bad and 2) they aren’t in it, anyway.
I suspect the Ariel’s troubles became systemic in the 1980s, when the quality of the yearbook as a whole, and particularly the photography, began to decline noticeably, and staffing shortages became prevalent. The higher quality a product is, the more desirable it is, so as the yearbook lost quality, it lost some demand, as well.
With staff shortages, it becomes harder to provide coverage, to capture everyone on campus, and students are excluded. Coverage is important, of course, because what’s the first thing most people look for when they open a yearbook? The index, so they can see their own photos. So a decrease in coverage also means a decrease in interest. This becomes a cycle: Quality declines, so interest and staffing declines, and then both quality and coverage decline, which makes interest and staffing decline even more, etc, etc.
I suggest the Ariel attempt to reverse its fortunes by first jump-starting staffing and then with aggressive marketing and distribution, with the overall goal of improving quality and coverage. Most importantly, I think Ariel needs to pay its staff, as The Lawrentian does, to create additional incentive.
As far as marketing and distribution, I suggest requiring a student portrait in exchange for receiving a yearbook: no mugshot, no yearbook. This increases coverage automatically. And be aggressive in marketing: demand and attention will not arise spontaneously.
Ultimately, I urge the student body, LUCC, and the powers that be to view the Ariel as an investment. Sure, student interest TODAY may be woeful, and to a certain extent that is inevitable (remember: ubiquity of media equals distraction). But in the FUTURE, when those students become alumni, those old yearbooks that are now propping open the door should gain value. The downside of having so much information, with such ease of publication, — ie, Facebook — is that it’s temporary. Tomorrow, it’ll be gone, lost, or out of sight. Ariel, however, will still be on the bookshelf: a browsable, concise history that one can reach up, actually lay hands on, flip through, and remember.
That, I think, is worth saving.