Introducing redesign, news assignment desk and 'Digital Journalist' title

Posted Feb 17, 2009 by Chris Hogg
Digital Journal is rolling out many new features and tools in 2009. To get started, we're happy to announce a name change for contributors, a news assignment desk and a design makeover.
Digital Journal
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Digital Journal is rolling out many new features and tools in 2009. To get started, we're happy to announce a name change for contributors, a news assignment desk and a design makeover.
As a pioneer in the citizen media industry, Digital Journal is often called upon to talk about new media and citizen news. Many people often look to Digital Journal to see how it plans to move forward to define the future of the industry. We're growing internationally and our team of contributors continues to expand. To highlight this growth and celebrate the importance of varying opinions and backgrounds of contributors, we are adopting a new slogan. On the masthead of our site, you will now see: "One World, Many Voices."
Digital Journal aims to take a proactive approach in defining this industry's future; we poll our audience, we talk to experts, we research other industry factors and we strive to be as critical as possible. The end product always benefits from a critical eye.
As we continue to research and get feedback from our readers and contributors, a recurring point is the use of the word "citizen journalist" to describe any non-professional who takes part in the news-gathering process. Some people love it, some people hate it, others don't know what it means. What's in a name? Well, this is where our first change comes in.

Digital Journalists: The rise of capital "DJ" journalism

From now on, all contributors to our news network are known as "Digital Journalists" rather than "Citizen Journalists." Why did we make this change?
In late 2008, we issued a poll asking news readers what they thought about the growth of citizen journalism, the term itself, and those who contribute to this market. The results were fascinating.
Out of all of our respondents, 75 per cent said some citizen journalist news sources are just as credible as mainstream journalism sources. Furthermore, 68 per cent of respondents said they get their news from both mainstream news organizations and citizen media websites and networks.
Digital Journal's goal as a citizen-powered news network has always been to take part in the daily news mix while stressing quality control (rather than unmoderated citizen media). We're happy to see readers recognizing and appreciating that endeavor.
In addition to daily news consumption habits, we asked for critical feedback from those who don't read news written by citizen journalists to find out why. One of the major recurring issues was trust. Many respondents said they were still unsure about how much they could trust this new industry and its participants. Many respondents told us quality control is important to them and they are increasingly taking citizen-generated news more seriously, but the name "citizen journalist" implies something that is less than legitimate (even if a citizen journalist's work is excellent). Others told us they feel the term "citizen journalist" doesn't give contributors enough credit for their hard work because people have a predetermined definition of "citizen journalist" as being amateur.
Many survey respondents told us Digital Journal was a credible source for news they trusted, but the name "citizen journalist" should be improved to better reflect the quality of the site and its contributors. One such example of quality and reach happened recently when an article written by a member of our news network inspired a major global airline to change its carry-on baggage policy. We heard from readers who said this example shows just how strong Digital Journal has become.
In our poll, the majority of respondents told us "Digital Journalist" was a more appropriate and credible moniker than "citizen journalist" for our news network. So, our first major change of the year responds to feedback regarding the term "citizen journalist" and from now on we proudly call all of our news contributors "Digital Journalists."
Furthermore, we've discussed the growth of Digital Journal and its participants with industry and journalism experts who agree that Digital Journal's contributors are different than the dictionary definition of "citizen journalist." Our news network has quality-control checks in place, and writers have to be approved before being paid to contribute. By definition, experts say, Digital Journal operates a higher-quality news network than unmoderated and unfiltered citizen journalism -- contributors should be given a title that distinguishes them from the pack.
The term "Digital Journalist" emphasizes that difference. Everyone who contributes to the site strives for excellence and aims to follow sound journalistic principles, and so we bestow the title "Digital Journalist" upon any contributor to our news network. Click on any member's name and it will distinguish individuals as "Citizen" or "Digital Journalist."
Congratulations all of you for your continued hard work and dedication.

Assignment Desk

As we move forward with editorial coverage, Digital Journal is also looking to formalize the reporting process and give writers some direction. To facilitate that, we're introducing an Assignment Desk so that our news network reflects that of a traditional newsroom.
All Digital Journalists will now see a list of article suggestions and topics after they click "Post News", found at the top of the page. This Assignment Desk will be regularly updated to reflect editorial that is newsworthy, important, popular and in-demand. If you're ever looking for an idea of what to write about, check out the Assignment Desk for ideas from our editors.
And if you write an article inspired by an Assignment Desk suggestion, you'll have a greater chance of being featured in the Editor Picks spot on the front page.

Design updates

This is an ongoing tweak. Based on more feedback we're looking to give our news network a simplified look, while making editorial easy to read and find.
Inside all articles, you'll see a custom news feed showing you news from your country (powered by our Digital Journalists who are reporting from 140 countries around the world); top news and related news appear at the bottom of all articles; you can click near the "Vote It Up" button to see who upvoted an article, image or blog post (click the underlined number to see the list of people); click on the Play button near an article's headline so you can have an article dictated to you by ReadSpeaker; and the links to Comments and article Revisions are now at the bottom of a story.
Thanks again to everyone for your continued support and feedback. We look forward to growing with you in 2009 and beyond.