OpenFile builds bridge between citizens and reporters

This week, a highly-anticipated new journalism project titled OpenFile launched. OpenFile’s website aims to bring about a higher level of interaction between the citizens and the reporters. Wilf Dinnick, whose extensive career spans roles at news agencies including CBC, Global, ABC and CNN, is the architect behind the local news concept. While the idea is not exceptionally different from what’s being already been done these days with news agencies and news-based blogs, its presentation is notably different when it comes to how truly open every step of the process is.

As simple as the Toronto-based OpenFile makes its process sound, you do have to sign up for an account before you can submit ideas—but it’s probably a necessary obstacle to minimize spammers and pranksters.

The OpenFile process is as follows:

1. The idea: Have an idea or question, however small or local or seemingly insignificant, and run with it.

2. The pitch: Submit your idea to OpenFile with a brief summary, followed by a more detailed description, and finished with any applicable multimedia. 

3. Editorial/peer approval: The pitch gets sent to editors for review. If it’s worthwhile, it’s posted where readers can comment on it. If the readers dig it, the story is assigned to a reporter (see 4).

4. Reportage: A professional journalist further investigates the story to produce an accurate, informative, and well-written article.

5. Publication: The reporter files their story and it’s published officially on OpenFile. But it’s not set in stone—multimedia and links can always be added to the article to keep to at the peak of relevance.

6. Afterlife: OpenFile keeps all stories on its archives so members and contributors can supplement and update them as stories evolve.

OpenFile’s philosophy is explained eloquently on their website:

Local news? Big deal.

Yes, big deal. A very big deal. All news begins as local news. Think about it. Every news story you’ve ever read, big or small, was born in a home, a storefront or a back alley somewhere in the world. A story only becomes a regional, national or global concern once we — you, me and everyone else — makes it one by talking about it. OpenFile was designed to let the public decide what local news stories should be covered. You suggest, we report. You comment, we respond. You create, we publish. End result: A vibrant, ever-evolving local news conversation among newsmakers, news-gatherers and news readers.

What are your thoughts on citizen journalism? Would you contribute to OpenFile?