We’ve gotten lots of feedback on our new California Watch site. People are commenting on the clean look and applauding the simple organization. Several readers have complemented us for the array of searchable databases on our Data Center.

I’ve also gotten some really great feedback about the way we’re making our staff more accessible to readers. Carrie Brown-Smith, a University of Memphis journalism professor, commended us for our bio pages, which include each staffer’s list of coverage priorities and some details about what they are working on – even the stories, journals or Web sites they’re reading.

We felt strongly that our reporters, multimedia producers and editors should let their personalities shine through on these pages and that it might help lift the veil on who we are and what we do.

“I just think that is incredibly smart and utilizes the research on credibility as well,” Brown-Smith wrote in an e-mail to me.

We’ve implemented other subtle innovations – including the way our reporters and a couple of other acclaimed investigative journalists have helped organize our Resources pages. Our resources are organized by topic. They serve as a guide for civic-minded citizens, students, bloggers and young journalists to conduct their own basic investigative reporting.

And we’ve also broken the traditional mold of story crediting by adding the names of our editors who work on each of our major stories. (One reader “tweeted” that it was her favorite thing about our new site.) We think it’s a way to increase accountability and credibility – and also to give props to the traditionally nameless and faceless journalists who partner with our reporters and multimedia producers on stories.

Since our site went live on Jan. 2, we’ve heard excellent criticisms as well. Some have worried that we’re allowing anonymous commenting, which can encourage the lunatics to dominate discussion boards (although that, thankfully, hasn’t happened here). Others have expressed hope that we would allow some type of rating system of comments as a way to encourage responsible commenting. We couldn’t agree more, and we want to make this a top priority to add soon. We hoped to tackle that before our launch, but we set it aside. Too many other things needed to get done first.

We’ve also had readers tell us it’s way too difficult to register to comment and to e-mail our staff. We agree. Our site was set up so that you have to be logged in as a registered user to connect with our reporting, editing and multimedia teams. We’re going to try to figure out a way to break down those barriers during the next phase of our site’s development. And we’re not wasting any time. We’re planning to start moving ahead with a slate of enhancements and refinements in the coming weeks.

So if you would like to see changes on our site, now is a perfect time to share your thoughts.
 

California Watch is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting and is now the largest investigative reporting team operating in the state. Visit the Web site at www.californiawatch.org for in-depth coverage of K-12 schools, higher education, money and politics, health and welfare, public safety and the environment.

Mark Katches is a past editorial director for The Center for Investigative Reporting. He is currently editor of the Oregonian and vice president of content for the Oregonian Media Group. Previously, he built and ran investigative teams at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Orange County Register. Mark was the primary editor of Pulitzer Prize-winning projects in both 2008 and 2010 and edited or managed five other stories that were Pulitzer finalists. Projects he edited or directed also have won the George Polk Award, the IRE award and the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award as well as the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize, the Sigma Delta Chi Award and the National Headliner Award. Multiplatform projects produced by CIR staff under Mark's guidance won a national News & Documentary Emmy, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award. He has overseen projects or websites that have won four Online Journalism Awards in the last decade, in addition to logging more than a dozen OJA finalists. In 2001, he was part of a reporting team that won the Gerald Loeb and IRE awards for a series of stories detailing the rising profits from the human tissue trade. He completed a Punch Sulzberger Fellowship at Columbia University in 2013 and has taught reporting classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University. Mark served on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors for four years and oversaw the IRE mentorship program for six years.