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OpenFile was founded by Canadian journalist Wilf Dinnick in May 2010. The site relied on users to direct its news coverage, inviting them to start a “file” (the site’s founders chose the term to suggest the dynamic process of newsgathering) for a local news story, then allowing other users to add to the file. The site’s editors produced professionally reported additions to selected files.
The site had six editors and six curators who worked on contract, and it received several million dollars of startup investment from an anonymous Canadian corporate source. Its owners expressed hopes to initially earn revenue through advertising and eventually to further expand the site to other Canadian cities and eventually the United States. It sold advertising in part through sponsored stories, but it could not sustain the site’s operations.
The site also hired freelance writers, with bonuses based on pageviews and frequent updates. As of October 2010, OpenFile had around 200 freelancers based in and around Toronto. Many of those freelancers were left unpaid when the site shut down.
The Austin American-Statesman is a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas. The Statesman was founded in 1871 is owned by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, which bought the paper in 1976. Cox attempted to sell the paper in 2008 and 2009, but took the paper off the market when offers were far less than what the company had…