BARSTOW - The Desert Dispatch is giving area residents the opportunity to share their own news with the help of new features on our Web site.

A new suite of tools that allow visitors to participate on the site is scheduled to launch during the day Friday, joining two other new features we've recently added. We've also altered the manner in which readers may comment on our stories to help prevent the abuse of the system to insult and degrade others.

No registration is required to read our site. However, we are now requiring visitors who wish to comment on stories to set up a profile page and provide a verifiable e-mail address to participate.

But this registration doesn't just give visitors the ability to comment on our stories - it also allows visitors to participate in new ways with the virtual community at the Desert Dispatch:

o Blogs. Create your own blog at the Desert Dispatch and let others know about your family, your career, your life, or just your thoughts. Read blogs written by others in the area and stay connected with the people who interest you.

o Photos. Share your photos in our public photo gallery. Upload pictures of your pets, your family, your vacations, and other images you're proud to show the world.

o Forums. The Desert Dispatch is launching a new message forum specifically for Barstow interests through these new tools. The site has been sharing a regional forum with residents in the Victor Valley area through our portal site at www.highdesert.com, and that forum will also continue for those who wish to participate.

To register and take advantage of these new tools, look for the "Publish Your Stuff" box on the right side of our home page at www.desertdispatch.com.

These new tools join some additional user features already on our site. We have recently upgraded our video tools to allow visitors to submit their own videos to be hosted on our site. We have also added an upgraded, searchable calendar that allows event organizers to post their own event information. This new calendar allows visitors seeking out community activities to easily find what they're looking for.

Visit www.desertdispatch.com and take a look at all our new features for your use, and help participate in the building of our virtual Barstow.