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AREA STUDENTS ARE AMBIVALENT ON VIDEO YEARBOOKS MANY IN HIGH SCHOOLS LIKE THE IDEA, BUT SALES HAVE PROVED DISAPPOINTING

TODAY'S TEEN-AGERS may want their MTV, but high school video yearbooks are another matter. Despite increased popularity around the country, particularly on the West Coast, video yearbooks have not taken Western New York by storm.

"It hasn't really caught on around here yet," said Justin DiCioccio of Just-In Entertainment, a company that creates video yearbooks for local schools.

Last year, he said, four local schools -- West Seneca East, Tonawanda, Niagara Falls and John F. Kennedy -- had video yearbooks. He estimates about a half-dozen schools will have them this year, including one his company is creating for St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute.

The success of the project, however, is uncertain. St. Joe's was told it must sell about 100 video yearbooks to make the project economically viable, said Ted Pijacki, the school's yearbook adviser. Each video yearbook sells for $39.95; about 40 have been ordered, Pijacki said.

There are two yearbooks at St. Joe's each year. The first comes out in May and features class pictures and academic activities. The second, which this year is the video yearbook, features extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs.

"Video is definitely the wave of the future, but cost is a factor," said Pijacki. "Unless we can get more orders, the whole thing will be in limbo."

Pijacki, who is also adviser for the traditional yearbook, says the video yearbook is a bigger challenge.

"It's been a struggle," he said. "We're doing a lot of our own filming, but you have to have the company come in and then put the whole thing together. They're not as sensitive to the school, and what it's about, as the students."

Video yearbook sales were disappointing last year at Tonawanda High School. "It was hard to market," said Bill DeGlopper, yearbook adviser. "The kids liked the idea, but just didn't want to spend the money."

There also was criticism of last year's finished product. "I didn't like it all," said Eric Emsinger, 17, a senior at Tonawanda. "The worst part was the music. We thought we'd hear the hit songs, you know the songs on the radio. They couldn't get the copyright, so they put generic music instead.

"I thought the regular yearbook was more interesting. You get a lot more out of it."

Sarah Colegrove, 17, a senior, thought that "parts of it were long and drawn out. They showed most of the graduation ceremony, I mean unless you're senior who wants to sit through the graduation all over again."

Senior Matt Smith enjoyed the video yearbook. "You buy a regular yearbook and it sits around and gathers dust," he said. "I put the video yearbook in the VCR all the time. It's more fun."

At St. Joe's, Craig Scime, a 14-year-old freshman, has been filming pep rallies, dances, football games, charity fund raisers and other student activities.

"When they first saw me with my camera they didn't know what was going on," Scime said recently while standing in the middle of a foyer, setting up a scene of students decorating a Christmas tree.

"Now, everybody knows it's all for the yearbook. I think the students are going to like this a lot better than the old ones. I know it's been fun for me; I like making my own movies rather than watching somebody else's."

This break in tradition at St. Joe's is a reflection of changing attitudes of the MTV generation.

"As an educator I hate to say this, but we live in an era when visual images mean so much to students," says Robert Scott, vice principal of student affairs. "They want more than just picking up a book and looking at still pictures."

He believes the video yearbook concept offers a challenge for its producers. "I want to see if they can capsulize an entire school year on a tape," Scott says. "If so, then I think this bodes well for the future and we will see more video yearbooks."

DiCioccio claims the video yearbook, "is not meant to replace the paper yearbook but to be an extension of it." For the St. Joe's video, DiCioccio's company will film 12 events at the school, and also provide a time capsule of world and local news events.

"The idea is to make the yearbook come to life and provide a feeling of what it was like to be in high school in 1990," DiCioccio says. "When these kids look at this tape 10 years from now, we want them to be able to relive their high school experience."

Matt Zebehazy, chief editor of both yearbooks, says it will be available at the end of the school year. "We haven't tried this before, but the kids seem to want something different."

The question is how many. Despite their affection for video, young people appear conservative when it comes to making the switch in yearbooks, although cost is similar. Hard-cover yearbooks sell for about $30.

"I think it's an adjustment to move to video," said Thomas Patti, a media teacher at Niagara Falls High School, which had a video yearbook two years ago. Sales were poor and the school has gone back to the traditional hard-cover book.

"The kids want a book they can sign and write messages on," Patti said. "Then there's the fact that it's tough to get all the kids in a one-hour video. You've got 1,200 kids in school and they know they're going to be in a regular yearbook. They might not make the video.

"Overall, I think the video yearbook is a good idea. I'm just not sure if the kids are ready for it yet."

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