OpenFile wants you to help revolutionize journalism

OpenFile wants you to help revolutionize journalism

Every time a news Web site, magazine or paper launches, those in the print industry welcome it wholeheartedly, since it’s another place of potential employment, albeit a place of potential employment in a tanking industry. Today’s recipient of cautious optimism is OpenFile, a Toronto-based news site that launched this morning.

The concept: the public submits leads and ideas on the site (only hard news, no fluffy arts and sports pieces), and if the staff thinks it may turn into a story, the idea is then posted on a forum where registered readers have their say on whether it’s worth reporting on. If it is, OpenFile’s team of journalists investigates in hopes that it’ll lead to the next Watergate (or, more recently, the Rekers rent-boy scandal). It’s like The Mark meets Formspring.

As for the reporters who will be following these leads, it’s a pretty A-list team. Site creator Wilf Dinnick made his rounds at CBC, CTV, Global, ABC and later CNN as a UAE-based correspondent. The rest of the staff is composed of former star editors and reporters, videographers and freelance writers. According to the Globe, the site is also backed by an anonymous Bay Streeter who plunked down “several million dollars.”

So far, OpenFile has met with one major criticism. The site depends largely on tips, and as anyone who has worked in a newsroom knows, for every good lead from the public there are 50 duds (some of the pitches on OpenFile sound more appropriate for a neighbourhood newsletter). Also, the user forum could turn into a full-time babysitting job for the moderators (mosey over to any comment section of a Globe story to get a sense of how open discussions easily turn into bitch fits). Speaking of, since anyone can register to get access to these forums, what’s going stop a reporter from a rival publication from signing up to scoop OpenFile? We gave it a shot and didn’t even have to log in to see that they’re working on a story about bike lanes (stop the presses!).

Of course, it’s been only two days since OpenFile went live, so it’s going to take time for the site to fine-tune things. We say the more reporters on the streets, the better, so we offer our cautious optimism to Dinnick and his crew.

• A globetrotting Canuck journo aims to revolutionize online news [Globe and Mail]
• “Always collaborate”: Say hello to OpenFile, the local news site putting those new media maxims to the test [Nieman Journalism Lab]