Welcome to Crosscut version 1.1. We've been in business not quite four months, and we've learned a lot in that short time, much of it from your comments and suggestions. The changes you see reflect just some of that. Crosscut will always be a work in progress, and we've already got plans for further refinements. For now we hope you'll find these improvements useful. Please let us know.
We haven't changed a core feature of Crosscut – guiding you to the best journalism and most important news in the "great nearby" of our Northwest, saving you the trouble of having to visit dozens of Web sites. Early each day, I and three other editors scan the region and summarize the news for you. And we post lots of original articles by our own writers and contributors, which appear on the home page under the Crosscurrent heading.
To our pleasant surprise, there are lots more excellent stories out there than we first thought, so much so that Crosscut has come to seem a little crowded and overwhelming to some readers. Let me explain how we now make it easier to navigate.
Crosscut's secret sauce is our categorization of everything by subject matter.
Everything we post – our own articles as well as headlines linking to content on other sites – is assigned at least one topic, and usually a handful. There are a number of terms for this; we prefer topic, but other sites might calls these tags, keywords, or categories.
For example, this article by Chris Vance about how the Republican Party can reinvent itself was assigned these topics: Washington, Washington Legislature, Washington Governor, Washington Agencies, and Politics/Government. As of this writing, there are more than 100 topics on Crosscut, and every one of them has its own home page, where the articles are displayed with the most recent ones on top. (You can browse topic home pages on our search page.)
So once we've found important news for you, there are two things Crosscut editors do: First, we write a really informative headline so you know what you're getting when you click. Many of these headlines also have a short further explanation of the story, written by us, which appears when you put your cursor over the headline without clicking (known as a "mouse-over"). Second, we assign topics to the item so you can find it later, through search or browsing. This human involvement in selecting the stories and then organizing them by topic is something automated sites like Google News don't give you.
More specifically, here's what we've changed on Crosscut in version 1.1:
New top-of-the-page navigation. The blue menus at the top of every page are now organized by topic. These menus drop down to reveal a list of regular features or subjects. Click on a subject and you go to that subject's home page.
Improvements to Top of the News. This is the left-column guide to what we nominate as the best journalism and most important news of the day. To get more headlines in view, we've hidden the article descriptions you used to see. To view an article description, move your mouse cursor over a headline. (You will find this new "mouse-over" feature elsewhere on the site, too.)
Also, you can now browse previous Top of the News editions by clicking on the date at the top of the column and choosing a different day from a pop-up calendar.
Most popular, most talked about. Farther down the left column you'll find two new features, listing the most popular and most-commented-on stories by Crosscut authors.
Short Cuts column. The third column of our home page is now called Short Cuts, where we list the most recent headlines for content "inside" the site – including regular columns or blogs, and popular topics. You can now see more on the home page of what's elsewhere on Crosscut, and you're more likely to find a good story that appeared a few days earlier and you overlooked. (We hope you check Crosscut every day, but of course many don't, so we want our non-daily readers to easily find on the home page headlines for the best stories of the past few days.)
A more-prominent Clicker. At the top of Short Cuts is a sampling of Clicker, our popular Northwest headline service. Clicker provides a deeper and broader scan of stories than Top of the News, drawing from sites all across the region, including blogs, national and international media, research sources, etc. It is updated all through the day, as news breaks or as we find new sources of information. Clicker still has its own page, but we've put the most important and most recent headlines on the home page for quick reference.
On the Clicker page itself, you can now narrow the listing of recent headlines by topic, using a pop-up menu. For example, you might want to pick Oregon from that menu, and presto, all of the Clicker items will pertain to Oregon, with the most recent on top.
We've organized our search page a little better. There are three ways to find things on Crosscut:
Advanced search. Define what you want by keyword, date, or topic. The more topics you choose, the narrower the search. This search includes Crosscut's own articles and headlines linking to content elsewhere.
Browse by topic. As explained above, everything we post on Crosscut is categorized – our own articles, and headlines linking to content on other sites. Every category has its own home page. You can browse this content by clicking on a topic in the list, and all articles on that topic, most recent on top, will appear in column two.
Google search of Northwest news sources. We created this tool to help you search a limited universe of sources – only daily newspapers in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; major broadcast outlets in those states; and selected media from British Columbia, Montana, and Alaska. This search is broader; the articles are not pre-selected by Crosscut editors.
We still have Newsstand, a page of live headlines direct from news outlets across the Northwest and links to important weather and travel Web pages. These are the headlines that these newspapers and other services select as their top stories, and are updated through the day by them.
Newsstand is also where you'll still find the best collection of news links in the region, including all daily papers and major broadcast outlets in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, as well as major media in British Columbia, Montana, and Alaska, and popular local blogs everywhere. These links take you directly to the home page of the media source or blog that we list.
Let us know what you think
You are crucial partners in this experiment in local Web journalism, so please let us know what you think. Post your comment below, or e-mail us.