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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 Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism is a nonprofit investigative news organization affiliated with the University of Iowa. The center was launched in spring 2010 by University of Iowa professor Stephen Berry and doctoral student Robert Gutsche Jr. It was initially staffed by students and interns working for free, though its leaders have plans…