Don't know if you're still reading this thread, but something I've found successful as a workaround to loss of Journal is setting up a Forum with "separate groups." If you then set up a course-wide group for each student, with each student as a member of his/her own group, the students will only see their own posts and your replies in that Forum. You can carry on a threaded conversation with each student from one location in this way.
(This was not my discovery, and I'm actually looking for the original post with this idea so I can credit it properly -- if anyone knows where it is, please reply!)
One drawback, however: in a "separate groups" Forum, you cannot post prompts to which all students can reply. If you post a prompt before entering a group in the Forum (via the dropdown at top left), students can read your prompts but not reply to them. You must enter a group, then post your prompt, then enter the next group, etc., if you want students to reply to your prompts. A workaround for this: post your prompt and ask the students to copy its subject for their reply.
Another potential drawback: grades for the Forum are cumulative, and show up in the gradebook as an average grade for the entire Forum rather than individual entries. However, appropriate gradebook weighting of the Forum grade should take care of this.
If you name the Forum "Journal," students will get the picture.
Has anyone found other suggestions/workarounds?