UPDATE: Further down this post, you will read how OpenFile’s CEO Wilf Dinnick says in a note to freelancers that a J-Source article about his organization ceasing operations was “incorrect on many counts.” I asked the writer of this article, Kelly Toughill, Director of the School of Journalism at University of King’s College in Halifax about this. She responded:
Wilf has not asked for a correction or clarification from me or from anyone at J-Source. Nor has Wilf posted any comments on the J-Source site, which he is welcome to do. Wilf did contact me after the story ran. I offered to clarify anything he felt was misconstrued, but he declined and explicitly stated that he did not want a correction or a follow. Everything in the original story is true to the best of my knowledge; most of it is based on my original interview with Wilf and our email exchanges.
Wilf Dinnick deserves credit for tackling the key problem of our era: the collapse of the business model for public-service journalism. He poured his heart and soul into a bold experiment in a time of excruciating uncertainty. Lessons learned from OpenFile will be at least as important as the viability of the model itself.
OpenFile, a network of local news site that wrote stories based on community suggestions, ceased operations in late September.
In a tumblr they plan to update, they wrote openly to Dinnick:
As freelancers who put many hours of work into OpenFile’s growth over the past few years, we were all disappointed to hear in late September that it would cease publishing. Freelance journalism isn’t an easy business, and it became a bit tougher when one of the most encouraging prospects for young journalists shut down.
When the organization closed, many of OpenFile’s freelancers were still waiting to be paid. Some of us had been waiting for months. In late October, several of us emailed company founder Wilf Dinnick, asking when we would be paid. We received no response.
A week later, Dinnick spoke with J-Source. His comments were hardly reassuring. In an email sent to some freelancers on Oct. 2 Dinnick had promised payment soon, at the end of a period of “restructuring.” But he then told J-Source that auditors had physically removed the company’s books and frozen the accounts.In the interview, Dinnick said that most bills were for only $100 or $200, and only 10 freelancers were owed more than $500.We wonder why the company would decide to drag freelancers with such small invoices along, for so long, with so little in the way of direction.Many of the freelancers signing this letter are owed over $1,000. Budgeting without knowing how much money we’ll have in our pockets hasn’t been easy.Dinnick also implied that paying freelancer within 30 days was somehow a cause of OpenFile’s financial woes. Payment within 30 days was certainly not the norm, and most of us grew accustomed to waiting two or three times that long.
I wanted to update you.First, let me say again how sorry we are that we could not pay you sooner. This is inexcusable and frustrating. I freelanced for years and understand your stress.As I wrote to you in September, we are running late with payments. As I mentioned in that note, we would have answers / resolution 30-60 days.So as we are approaching the end of November, we should have clarity on timing. At that point, I will be in touch to confirm the exact release date of your money and your personal invoice information to ensure no confusion.To be clear, you will get paid for your work.I also want to let you know that I am not going to be speaking with the media anymore on this issue, only because it has created confusion.The recent J-source piece was incorrect on many counts. Your payment is THE priority for us.However frustrating these last few months have been, I appreciate your continued patience.As you know, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.I believe I have answered every email that has come to me… and if I have not, please ping me again.More soon.