Michelle Sullivan Communications

Open File – journalism, wide open

This new journalism project by Wilf Dinnick has piqued my interest (piqued being a giant understatement). Definitely one to add to your Google Reader:

Welcome to the beginnings of OpenFile.ca, a new voice for local news.

We are warming up, getting ready to unveil our website in just two weeks. We promise to provide smart, original, insightful stories about the places and topics that matter most to the people of Toronto.

For me, OpenFile represents a fresh chapter in my journalism career, which began more than 20 years ago in this city. As a video journalist at CBC Television, I was the night reporter, handling breaking local news – going live here, whipping over there for an interview.

After working in all of Canada’s national network newsrooms, I became the Middle Eastern correspondent for ABC News, then an international correspondent for CNN. I reported from Africa, Asia, North America and all over the Middle East. I covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tsunamis and civil conflicts. These were big stories, but they taught me that all news starts as local news.

Over the past few years I’ve watched the news business change dramatically. Big media companies have struggled to figure out how to adapt to the way people are getting their news in the digital age. My biggest fear was that real journalism, stories that affect you and your community, would get lost as traditional news outlets scrambled to come up with a quick fix that would lure back their dwindling audiences.

We are not trying to replace daily newspapers or newscasts. We do not have the answer to all the questions that are keeping journalists like us awake at night. But we believe that journalism cannot evolve without input from you, the reader, so we’re trying something different. At OpenFile, readers can collaborate with our reporters and editors, creating a place for great storytelling to flourish.

When I returned to Canada last year, I got together a group of journalists and clever web thinkers and developers whom I admired. We spent months huddled over our kitchen tables, scribbling on Post-it notes, arguing and eating a lot of takeout before agreeing on this approach.

We asked some smart venture capital people to help develop a business plan. We did the « finance dance » for about five months and raised some money. We moved into an old factory in Toronto’s west end, and here we are.

We’ll start by doing one thing – local news – and doing it well. The internet is full of aggregators powered by search engines that spit out the same story over and over. We’re not like that. We’ll assign real reporters to cover the developments that affect your communities and neighbourhoods.

Toronto is our start.

This will be your site! Think of it as a work in progress, because we want to know how you feel about what we’re doing.

Wilf
Founding Editor and CEO

wilf@openfile.ca