Can Now Sort Stories for Relevance

Pity the poor editors who go to in need of a cover story and start wading through the more than 6,000 stories on the site looking for one suitable for their city in this time of year. Isn’t there an easier way to find just the right story than endlessly clicking on links and skimming contents?

A member of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ Editorial Committee raised that question at a meeting in Evanston, Ill., in August. Last week a solution of sorts was introduced on

When story submitters are adding a story to the site, they are now asked to check off selections in two new fields: Longevity and Geographic Breadth.

For Longevity, there are four choices:

  • Evergreen. This indicates a story that could just as well run six months or a year from now as today, with only a bit of minor line editing — if any — needed to update it.
  • Timely for 4 to 8 weeks.
  • Timely for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Very timely. If you don’t run it by next week, it will be too late.

For Geographic Breadth, there are four choices:

  • Universal. This choice indicates a story that is as relevant in Miami as it is in Toronto or Bend, Ore. Only a few minor line edits — if any — would be needed to make it suitable for publication in another city.
  • Can be universal with editing. Although most of the story is relevant in any part of North America, some brief localized sections might have to be dropped and/or replaced.
  • Regional. A regional story has relevance outside the city in which it is published but not everywhere. It may be suitable for publication throughout the entire state or province, or in another distinct part of the country. For regional stories, it’s not enough to checkmark “Regional.” You should also type the relevant regions into the Keywords field if they are not mentioned in the headline or summary of the story: for example, “Arizona” or “Chicago, Illinois.” Concentrate on the cities in which other AAN-member papers are located.
  • Local. A local story is one that is posted to because it’s likely to be of interest to readers. However, the angle is so local that publications in other cities would be unlikely to want to reprint the story.

Here’s how to do a search more likely to yield the stories you ‘re looking for.

Go to the Advanced Search page.

If you’re searching for stories suitable for your region, put a checkmark next to “Regional” in the Geographic Breadth field and type the region you’re looking for in the Keywords field. If you’re looking for recent stories that are still timely, you can checkmark both “Evergreen” and “Timely for 4 to 8 weeks” in the Longevity field. Then, in the top field, Posted, which has a pulldown menu of dates, choose a date no more than eight weeks back.

Editors will find many other ways to narrow their searches on the Advanced Search page, for example, by word count and availability of art. Using the new fields to narrow a search won’t always be necessary. Someone searching for a review of a particular movie or CD, for instance, can just leave the Longevity and Geographic Breadth fields marked “All.”

All stories submitted to AltWeeklies before Sept. 21, the day the new fields were introduced, have defaulted to be characterized by the narrowest choices, “Very timely” and “Local.” Submitters can go back to the page where they edit their paper’s stories if they want to modify any previous postings to a broader choice, like “Evergreen” or “Universal.”

The hope is that these extra fields will resolve the conflict between the site’s dual purposes: gaining readership for important stories published in AAN papers, even if they aren’t likely prospects for reprint elsewhere, and providing a way for editors to buy reprint rights to stories first published in other AAN papers.

Anyone with questions about using the site should direct them to Ruth Hammond.

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