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OpenFile – is this the perfect model for a new era of grass roots journalism?


OpenFile is a new and very cool online service which is attempting to put the vroom back into local news reporting. What’s clever about this Canadian site is the fact that any member of the public can login and trigger a story they want covered.

The site will then allocate one of their team of professional journalists to cover the stories as needed. It’s not clear whether these journos cover all submissions or just the most popular/best ones, but in any case it’s a great idea.


What’s even better is the fact that anyone can add their own images, comments or questions to a submitted story while it’s in the ‘Open File’ stage. Once a reporter is assigned it becomes a Reported Story and gets the pro journalist treatment, with pictures, video and everything. The combination of local crowdsourced content and professionally trained coverage means the best of both worlds for readers, and it comes across as having a real community feel.

One small quibble would be that there seems to be no accreditation given to the original Joe Public submitter of the story once it moves to a pro journalist byline, which seems a little unfair. The service also desperately needs an email subscription mode so you can subscribe to a weekly email digest of local news into your inbox.


Apart from that the big gripe is it’s only for Toronto Canada. C’mon guys, spread out the love and give the rest of us a chance, or at least open source the software so others can jump on-board the train. Sure the model is a little complicated because you need local journalists on board, but that should be fairly easy to sort out with the right contacts in each locale.

All in all this is a fabulous demonstration of what the future of journalism could look like, as people and professionals come together to cover the things that matter to communities. Bravo!

 We designed OpenFile as a collaborative community news site connecting citizens to their city and the reporters who cover it. We recognize what the mainstream media still doesn’t: the important stories that really matter to people are the small ones that affect our daily lives. Together, we can cover those stories. We want you to open your own files and help grow others by adding comments, images, video and helpful links. We see the news as a discussion, not a monologue. And listening is only half of the conversation.

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