OpenFile freelancers unite, take up fight with site’s founder

Freelancers owed money by OpenFile fired off an open letter to site founder Wilf Dinnick Monday in response to an interview he gave to a journalism professor that was published on J-Source (more background from the Globe). They also set up a tumblr.

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 turned off its lights.

When the organization closed, many of OpenFile’s freelancers were still waiting to be paid for our work. Some 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 at OpenFile. Most of us grew accustomed to waiting two or three times that long.

OpenFile had great editors and great reporters, who did some terrific work. We hope it is restructured as quickly as possible and flourishes as an organization.

But it’s irresponsible to embark on another venture without paying off debts still owed to the journalists who made OpenFile what it was.

Once we’re all square, we would be glad to go back to work and get OpenFile on its feet again. For now, we need to get paid