"The jury applauds his courage to put his own reputation on the line to create new and innovative approaches to engaging citizens with local, public service journalism in an independent environment, without the backing or safety net of working within an established news organization," said Janice Neil, chair of the jury and editor-in-chief of J-Source.
Humbled by the honour, Dinnick says “the award really belongs to the OpenFile team. I was just the guy who convinced a bunch of investors to support the company. The original idea, which was to make OpenFile a purely interactive model where we take pitches from citizens and then assign freelance writers to report on the story, has evolved into so much more.”
OpenFile launched in September 2010 and now employs over 450 freelance multimedia journalists. According to Dinnick, the online media company is focused on building true engagement with its readers. Not only can people suggest stories, they can vote up other story ideas, participate in weekly chats and much more. OpenFile truly is community-powered news – allowing readers to add comments, links and videos to a local story.
“We see ourselves as a utility, rather than a publisher. I believe that the future of journalism is to be a public service, rather than a product,” says Dinnick.
OpenFile is also planning to offer a service that helps advertisers and brands to create and publish engaging and interesting local content for their readers. Dinnick believes that banner ads are not going to be the only saving grace for the media industry. That’s why the company will be creating an advertising content editorial team very soon.
To see what’s possible, check out OpenFile’s interactive Remembrance Day map and story which shows where fallen Canadian soldiers lived in your area. The company also recently created an interactive map for Canadian Blood Services, using their internal data about local blood donations across the country.
Dinnick believes that OpenFile is not meant to compete with mainstream media players. “We cannot afford to do it, nor is that our intent. Instead, we want to partner with them and be a local conversation starter for their readers. We’re already working with websites like The Huffington Post, and we hope to work with even more publishers in the near future,” he says.
OpenFile takes a fresh approach to journalism – facilitating collaboration, rather than putting up walls and restrictions. “If you’re not sharing stories and participating in the conversation, it’s a real loss for everyone,” says Dinnick. “Walls do not support the future ecosystem of news.”