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Citizen journalism takes a step forward with Topix.com

Topix has relaunched, with a new site that does a good job blending automated news gathering with citizen journalism.

Topix, a news aggregation service that's been around for several years, launched a new site today, at Topix.com (previously the site was Topix.net). The service continues to pull local news from a variety of local sources, but with today's release, citizen editors can have a much stronger hand in the site.

Topix is attractive and easy to use. CNET Networks

On the new Topix.com, users apply for the job of editor for a topic or a community and once approved (as with Citizendium, it's not automatic), they can add stories, move stories around on the page, and remove the stories that the Topix "roboblogger" has added (the roboblogger does the necessary service of keeping alive pages that have no editors, or lazy ones). Designated editors also can write their own stories for a topic, and even submit them from a mobile phone.

Noneditors can comment on stories and submit them to a topic's editors for later inclusion. In this way it's more like USA Today than Digg, and I think users will appreciate the resulting editorial oversight. (USA Today's parent company is an investor in Topix, by the way.)

Topix editors can select, promote, or create local stories. CNET Networks

All these details don't really capture the essence of Topix. It's a local news site that gets it right. The service is well-designed and what it does is obvious from the start. The home page and news pages are extremely clear. But rich community and very detailed editing functions (including a Wikipedia-like revision tracker) are close at hand should you want to check them out. My only complaint with Topix is that the community isn't granular enough. There's an active Topix community on San Francisco, for example, but there's no clear way to drill into just the news and talk about my neighborhood. (Related: StreetAdvisor.)

Still, I like Topix a great deal. Of the many citizen journalism sites out there, I think this one does a better job than most at getting the balance right between editorially driven and automated news, and between simplicity and richness. It looks like a very useful site for people in a community and for those thinking about moving into one.

See News.com story. Also: Topix CEO Rich Skrenta's blog post about the re-launch.