Face to face
What would you do if you saw someone randomly attacked on the street?
Do you support mandatory minimum sentences?
What do you think of capital punishment?
Have you ever been face to face with a thief?
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Do you think Charles Manson should be allowed to marry?
Do you think doorknobs should be banned?
Do you think George Zimmerman will ever stay out of the headlines?
Do you think there is more to learn about the JFK assassination?
Do you think Harper is telling the truth?
- - -
Are you tired of the media coverage of Mayor Rob Ford?
Do you think Rob Ford is “good for Toronto”?
Do you think Rob Ford should have given all of his staff $5,000 raises Friday?
Do you think Mayor Rob Ford should have lost the bulk of his office staff?
Would you watch a movie about Rob Ford?
If you saw Barry Neelin on the street, would you think he was Rob Ford?
Do you think city council is capable of conducting business as usual despite the scandal surrounding Mayor Rob Ford?
Should the provincial government give Toronto council more tools to sideline Mayor Rob Ford?
Do you believe Rob Ford when he says he won’t drink again?
Are you tired of the media coverage of Mayor Rob Ford?
- - -
Will humans eventually live on Mars?
Have you ever taken a selfie or twerked?
Do you wish you were able to fly like Superman?
Have you donated to relief efforts in the Philippines?
Is 50 per cent enough?
- - -
Can Barack Obama save ‘Obamacare’?
Should the pastor be suspended?
Have you been a victim of red tape at city hall?
Do you think Ornge Air Ambulance is safe?
Do you think Melissa Bachman was sacked unfairly?
Which scandal is worse?
- - -
Do you remember to check your lottery tickets?
If you won the lottery, would you keep working?
Would you hire John Edwards?
Would you eat kangaroo meat?
Would you give a hug to a stranger on the street?
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All lines come from polls accompanying Toronto Sun news stories published over one week (from Saturday, November 15 to Friday, November 22). Repeated lines were questions asked more than once. I’ve corrected any typos in the original, but they’re otherwise reproduced here as-published. Thanks to Jon Medow for suggesting I turn a stupid joke into this even-stupider one.
If your Rob Ford debacle postmortem story headline is not “VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR” then you’re not trying hard enough.— Andrew Snowdon (@snobiwan) May 30, 2013
The Winnipeg Free Press has produced a Rob Ford–themed “Video Killed the Radio Star” parody: http://t.co/jeI99xQrCe— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) June 3, 2013
Video Killed The Radio Star: The Rob Ford Story #TOpoli— Ben Thornton (@BCThornton) November 3, 2013
Okay, “Video Killed the Radio Star” was a pretty clever song choice for your show today, @thekeenanwire.— Kelli Korducki (@kelkord) November 6, 2013
Video killed the radio star? #topoli— Ron Wadden (@Ron_Wadden) November 8, 2013
video killed the radio star #topoli— BigGoats11 (@BigGoats11) November 8, 2013
Video killed the radio star. “@StrashinCBC: 1010 cuts ties with Fords, The City will no longer air.”— Sean Marshall (@SeanMarshall81) November 8, 2013
What an appropriate song for today’s news, Video Killed the Radio Star: https://t.co/VhPGFfhnFD— Jamie Tucker (@jamie_tucker) November 8, 2013
Videos killed the radio star: http://t.co/mWKgkHB2e6— Steve Murray (@NPsteve) November 8, 2013
Finally a positive development: Newstalk 1010 has cut The City. I guess the video killed the radio star.— Lavinia Lamenza (@LaviniaLamenza) November 8, 2013
Video killed the radio star. #RobFord— Thomas Fus (@thomas_fus) November 9, 2013
Video killed the radio star #robford— monica gupta (@mongupta) November 9, 2013
Rob Ford’s radio show has been cancelled: video killed the radio star. #robford— WebDiva (@WebDivaMJ) November 9, 2013
There may be no greater threat to the illusion that we are all not just funny but uniquely funny than Twitter. (At least this one is a pretty good joke.)
From the “video killed the radio star” file: Ford bros. Sunday radio talkshow cancelled. http://t.co/qKJQFeEWvg— Bob Mackin (@bobmackin) November 9, 2013
Toronto really doesn’t have many female cabbies. Here, look:
Of 10,356 licensed cab drivers in the City of Toronto, that’s 10,243 men (they’re blue), and only 113 women (they’re yellow). I’ve got a story in The Grid this week about why. The short answer, one I heard from many of the men I spoke to for the story and the women I did, too: safety.
Across Canada, though, things are a little different—not a lot different, but a little, and in some surprising ways. In 2011, this country had a total of 55,150 cab drivers, according to Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. Most of them were men, too, but not quite so large a proportion as in Toronto:
The number of Canadian cab drivers is split pretty evenly between immigrants and non–permanent residents on the one hand (26,850), and non-immigrants on the other (27,735), and that’s where you can start to see things getting a little starker.
Here’s the proportion among non-immigrants:
But here it is among immigrants and non–permanent residents:
Leah Gebremichael, a female cab driver I got lucky enough to find while reporting my story, told me that “I get a lot of customers telling me about how, outside of Toronto, there’s a lot more female drivers.” She thinks that might be because, in small towns, everyone knows everyone, and drivers aren’t out as late anyway. That sounds right to me. I don’t know, because I don’t have enough data for any individual city, including Toronto, but I’d also be surprised if this city’s proportion of immigrant drivers wasn’t much higher than, say, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s.
Where women do a little better in Toronto isn’t, it turns out, behind the wheel, but behind the plate. As I mention, there’s a much healthier proportion of women among licensed Toronto cab owners than drivers—15.5%—but very few of them seem to drive. I heard this from a few of the male drivers I spoke to for this story; one young guy, Sukhbii Singh, told me that the cab-driving classes drivers and most owners have to take “are 10 to 15% girls, but they don’t show up on the driving.” Ian Redfearn, who’s a supervisor with the City of Toronto’s division that licenses drivers, explained to me that something else could be going on: since each cab owner can only own one cab, it’s common for men who already own one cab to get their wives and daughters to get licensed, too, even though it’s the men who’re still ultimately using them. Because you have to be a licensed cab driver before you can be a licensed cab owner, it’s possible that the number of women who are actually out there driving on the streets of Toronto is even lower than that meagre 1.1% suggests.
Still, things do seem to be moving in the right direction in Toronto; the disparity was even worse ten years ago, and has gotten steadily better since:
Mind that y-axis, though.
You can read my story over here. Torontoist beat me to the punch and interviewed two female cabbies earlier this month, so go read those, too. And then, when you’re done all that, watch this short documentary about female cabbies in New York City, where the proportion of women may (or may not? [PDF]) be even worse.
The comments on my now-month-old cover story for The Grid, "Spent," about being young and getting by on not very much money in Toronto, were wonderful in a way only mostly anonymous comments on a subject like kids-these-days can be: mean, helpful, stupid, funny, thoughtful, outraged, everything. (That three of the article’s five main subjects—Josh, Julian, and Colin—couldn’t resist defending themselves and that their replies only constitute some of the highlights is what I mean when I say the comments were wonderful.) They’re all gone now, though, thanks to a server crash that wiped out a couple months worth of comments on every Grid article that had the misfortune of being published between mid-March and mid-May. But they really were too good to never be seen again, and it took only a few minutes of searching to find a cached version on Google that, for now, still had all of them preserved. If you haven’t yet, read my feature (or maybe don’t bother? many of those commenting didn’t!), and then, please, go on ahead:
You have heard that things are hard and getting harder for twenty- and thirty-somethings. This is true in Canada, as the Globe has spent much ink on showing lately, and especially true in Toronto, where, as I wrote in my cover story for The Grid last week, the cost of living keeps growing while wages don’t: in 2010, those between 25 and 34 years old living in the Toronto area pulled in a median income of $33,300. That’s 1,070 inflation-adjusted dollars less than they would have been making here at the same age in the 1990s, and $4,030 less than in the 1980s.
That’s not the end of the story, though. Those numbers come from Statistics Canada, which has tracked individual incomes across provinces and in the major “census metropolitan areas,” like Toronto’s, since 1976. (It’s CANSIM table 202-0407, and you can see it all here; it only goes up to 2010 at the moment and 2011’s information won’t appear till end of June, most likely.) The numbers jump around a bit year-to-year, but if you get their data for the Toronto area only, and calculate the average median income for each age group in the three complete decades for which that’s possible—the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s—and keep it adjusted for inflation in 2010 dollars, this is what you get:
It looks kind of like things are getting smaller across the board, right? That’s maybe not so clear, though. Here’s a chart of just the differences, for each age group, between the decades:
And here’s that same chart, for each age group, between the decades, showing the percentage difference:
It’s pretty clear: median incomes are lower now than they were before for nearly every age group in the Toronto area—a bit lower than the ’90s, and a lot lower than the ’80s. That’s actually not the case for Canada as a whole. While the median incomes country-wide are a little less, they’ve held up better. Here’s that difference, for each age group, between the three decades again, but for the whole country this time:
Now, income’s only one measure—one of many—of prosperity, or the lack thereof, and there are no doubt plenty of explanations, good and bad, that partially account for why the graph for the Toronto area looks so dire. (Do more people being in school much longer help explain the big drop in earnings for 20–24 year olds? Almost certainly. Could 65-plus-year-olds be the only group making more now than in the ’80s because many of them aren’t retiring, and are still working? I wouldn’t be surprised. Could all the new immigrants this city’s seen over the last few decades who are taking low-wage jobs push the averages for adults lower? Maybe.) If you look at the data, though, it’s hard to feel encouraged about the way the lines are pointing—down, down, down.
You can read my story on getting by in Toronto when you’re young and living somewhere above the poverty line but at or below the median-income level for your age group here. Get ready, 55 to 64-year-olds, because I’m coming for you next.
I think we might all owe John Steckley an apology.
In 1989, the Humber College professor was the one to suggest the name “Ataratiri” for the new neighbourhood that the provincial and municipal governments intended to build west of the Don River’s mouth. Ataratiri—prononced “a-tar-a-TEER-y”—had been a Huron village, located right around here, before the Iroquois destroyed it in 1649. It was a “natural choice for a name,” Steckley told the Star after a city committee okayed it, especially since the Huron once called the land the new development would be on home, too.
When it came to what the word “Ataratiri” translated to, though, the newspapers at the time couldn’t get their stories straight. The Star said it meant “soil, clan and strength” (March 22, 1989), “clay soil found near rivers in southern Ontario” (April 28, 1989), “clay soil by a river mouth” (July 14, 1989), and “supported by clay” (March 19, 1992). The Globe said no, actually, it meant “village by the river built on clay” (April 28, 1989 and May 19, 1989), “supported by clay” (March 7, 1990), “village by the water” (February 2, 1991), and “built on clay” (March 14, 1992 and December 22, 1995). Soon, after the millions-over-budget project was cancelled, the name became little more than a punchline: in an editorial titled “Boondoggle, in English,” the Globe mused that the translation should be “village by a major expressway in a derelict industrial area prone to flooding, built on contaminated soil” (March 13, 1992). Eye Weekly (April 30, 1992) wondered whether “it’s a PR person’s word for ‘confuse the hell out of the public.’” Later, the Financial Post (March 27, 2006) joked that it was “an old Indian word that roughly translates to ‘Swamp of the Taxpayer.’”
I had a hunch that what it really meant would matter, though.
I’d been researching the project, and the name Steckley gave it, for a short feature I was writing about the West Don Lands, the new name for the new master-planned neighbourhood that’s being built right now where Ataratiri was once supposed to go. (You can read more about what happened to Ataratiri there.) Across the southern and easternmost points of the neighbourhood, underneath Don River Park, there’s something called the Flood Protection Landform, or FPL. When a once-in-a-lifetime storm hits, the FPL is designed to deflect the water surging down the Don out towards the Port Lands and into Lake Ontario; otherwise, it could flow over and flood downtown as far east as York Street and as far north as Front Street. And it turns out that what’s doing the most to keep the Air Canada Centre from being underwater one day is layer after layer of strong, dense clay. It’s built in “lifts,” Waterfront Toronto’s Director of Parks, Design and Construction, James Roche, told me, meaning that “you place it, compact it, place it, compact it, place it, compact it,” until it settles, he said.
The more research I was doing, the further away I was getting from a single, definitive definition of “Ataratiri.” If it meant “village by the water,” or “clay soil found near rivers in southern Ontario,” then, yeah, sure, that’d be worth me knowing, but saying so in whatever I was writing wouldn’t have added much. But if it meant something closer to “built on clay”—if it meant that “Ataratiri” had, a quarter of a century later, become a truer name for the plan that was actually getting built than the one that never did, I wanted to find out, and say so.
John Steckley, fortunately, is pretty easy to track down. He’s still a professor at Humber, and seems to have spent the last twenty-four years growing a prodigious beard, racking up positive reviews on Rate My Professors, and writing books, including a Huron to English and English to Huron dictionary. When I called him at his office, we joked a bit about how out-of-the-blue this all must seem, and then he told me what I’d been hoping to hear: that atara “usually means ‘clay’” and tiri means “support.” A good English translation of “Ataratiri,” he said, is “supported by clay.” Perfect.
To the description of Don River Park and the Flood Protection Landform I’d written, I added one sentence about what Waterfront Toronto’s James Roche told me, and another about how, though you won’t catch anyone using it, Ataratiri might have been a fitting name for the neighbourhood after all. (Here, after all, was a neighbourhood—a city, even—supported in every sense of the word by clay.)
There are only so many things you can fit on two tabloid-sized sheets of paper, though, and little historical asides, neat as they may be, don’t always make it. In the course of editing, out both sentences came. It happens, but I can’t help but feel a little bad for a name that was understood little and respected less, a better name than anyone at the time even realized. I know that when Barbara Hall, soon to be elected mayor but then a councillor, was interviewed after Ataratiri was cancelled and told the Star, crestfallen, that “those people who came up with the idea had a dream, and it was a good one then and a good one today,” she meant Ataratiri, the plan. But I feel the same way now about Ataratiri, the name.
There are, it seems to me, two ways of thinking about the merits of the internet when it comes to the writing—or, really, anything—on it: either it’s wonderful, because people who didn’t previously have access to a medium that gave them a chance to be creative suddenly do, or it’s awful, because, by letting pretty much anyone create pretty much anything they want, the vast majority of what ends up being created is crap.
That difference of opinion is not, in and of itself, the interesting thing. What’s interesting is that it’s not new at all.
Take Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” published in 1936. Benjamin writes:
For centuries a small number of writers were confronted by many thousands of readers. This changed toward the end of the last century. With the increasing extension of the press…an increasing number of readers became writers—at first, occasional ones. It began with the daily press opening to its readers space for ‘letters to the editor.’ And today there is hardly a gainfully employed European who could not, in principle, find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work, grievances, documentary reports, or that sort of thing. Thus, the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character….at any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer.
Benjamin wrote those words with part of Aldous Huxley’s Beyond the Mexique Bay: A Traveller’s Journey, published two years before, in mind; he footnoted it in “Work of Art.” Huxley:
Process reproduction and the rotary press [those big cylindrical printing presses—think of how old movies show newspapers being made] have made possible the indefinite multiplication of writing and pictures. Universal education and relatively high wages have created an enormous public who know how to read and can afford to buy reading and pictorial matter. A great industry has been called into existence in order to supply these commodities. Now, artistic talent is a very rare phenomenon….the proportion of trash in the total artistic output is greater now that at any other period.
Now, the important thing here about “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (and skip ahead if you’re an English, Philosophy, or Art History major) is that it’s, in part, an argument about access. Benjamin argued that an original work of art—like the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre—had an “aura,” but that reproducing a piece by mechanical means (creating a more or less exact duplicate by making a print of a work of visual art, or having a phonograph of a recording of a symphony orchestra) diminished its aura. In doing so, the artwork was made more accessible and public, but also less holy and less special.
But this is worth it, for Benjamin: Rather than the Mona Lisa being off-limits to everyone save for those people who could afford not only a ticket to the Louvre, and were willing to see it under conditions such as the hours the museum was open, but also those who could pay for a plane (or what were they riding back then, zeppelins?) to get there if they were on another continent…instead of barrier after barrier putting greater and greater distance between you and the Mona Lisa, suddenly, you’ve got the Mona Lisa, too, and you can do whatever you want with it. Rather than needing to be wealthy to listen to the London Philharmonic play Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, there it was, playing in your bathroom while you showered.
All of which is to say that, boy, would Walter Benjamin like the internet, and boy, would Aldous Huxley hate it.
Huxley’s argument is about taste as much as it’s about access—he’s talking more about how created things are received than how they’re produced, but, as he sees it, increased access to the world’s printing presses leads to an ever-increasing quantity and proportion of crap. In other words, it’s not just that there’s more crap; it’s that the percentage of good stuff keeps dwindling compared to it. This is more or less correct: I think it’s fair to say that filters, in the form of things like editors or curators or even the market, typically do an okay job at filtering out what’s shitty to leave only what’s less shitty to be distributed.
Where Huxley makes his big mistake is confusing a decreasing proportion of “artistic talent” with a decreasing quantity of it. It’s not as if, for every dumb-as-nails letter to the editor, a T.S. Eliot poem was scrubbed from the earth. What really happens—and I think the internet makes this obvious in a way that print, in the 1930s, couldn’t—is that, whether we are talking about journalism, podcasting, blogging, music, film, art, whatever, there is more “artistic talent” on display now than ever before, thanks to the internet; that there is far more trash than anyone could have ever anticipated, thanks to the internet; that it’s the inherent accessibility of the internet that’s directly responsible for both of those things; and that we really can’t have it any other way. Huxley looked at a growing pile of trash and mistakenly concluded that there wasn’t something wonderful—much smaller, but wonderful—growing underneath it. Artistic talent remains a very rare phenomenon, yes, but there is much more of it on display now that “the distinction between author and public” is long gone, and it’s hard to see how we’re not better off for it.
Put another way: the internet is always getting worse, but it is also always getting better.
Last updated October 7, 2013 (+$3,864.60).
The number above is the total, up-to-date amount of money that OpenFile’s contributors (the ones I’ve spoken to so far) say they’re owed for work they did before the online publication went “on pause” in September, 2012; why I’m tracking that number is what’s below.
Good journalism costs money. Or, at least, good journalists deserve good money. That was one thing that OpenFile always got right, right from the beginning: here was an online publication, in cities across Canada, paying better-than-competitive rates—decent were they print rates, incredible given that they were online—to freelancers, all to write the kind of local news stories that other publications weren’t, or couldn’t. Being able to pay people decently for online journalism was one of the big reasons I took a job with OpenFile as their Toronto Editor at the beginning of 2011, and one of the big reasons why, after I left a few months later (it wasn’t right for me, and there were things in my life I needed to focus on that weren’t work), I remained a fan. I only have nice things to say about how I was treated, financially and otherwise.
Others, though, might not share my feelings.
OpenFile’s been “on pause” since September 28, 2012, when its founder, and my old boss, Wilf Dinnick announced that it was undergoing “a pretty big change over the next few weeks,” and was no longer publishing until “the next phase.”
It took a while before everyone realized that the money OpenFile owed but had yet to pay out to contributors was on pause, too. In an interview in early November with J-Source, Dinnick admitted that “things were a bit of a mess in the bookkeeping”; OpenFile’s bank accounts had been frozen, he said, and the company’s books were in the hands of Canada Revenue Agency auditors. But Dinnick sounded confident. “We hope to have that money released very soon, probably in the next few weeks, but again it is up to an auditor when that is done and when the accounts are loosened and I can write those checks.” Until then, nothing.
I got curious. I started emailing around, and put a call out for contributors to tell me if they were owed money, and, if so, how much. I promised them that if I published anything using their totals, which I wasn’t sure I was going to do, I’d keep their names out of it unless they asked otherwise, and I wouldn’t mention how much any one person was owed, two things I knew that, in their position, I’d probably want.
A few days after the J-Source article was published, on November 12, a small group of freelancers outed themselves and put their names to an open letter, demanding they be paid back. “When the organization closed,” it reads, “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.”
Later that November day, Dinnick sent an email to some freelancers, promising that “answers / resolution” would come when he’d always said they would, within thirty to sixty days of the announcement in September of OpenFile’s hiatus. (This seemed to be news to the freelancers I’d started talking to.) “So as we are approaching the end of November,” he explained, “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,” he continued, “you will get paid for your work.”
I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted to write anything about this—and then, whether to write about it here, or for The Grid—and I spoke to Dinnick the next day on the phone and told him as much. He asked that much of the conversation be off the record, but I was left with the same impression that those owed money were: it was on its way, and sooner rather than later. I wanted OpenFile to come back, I wanted everyone to get paid, and, most of all, I wanted Dinnick to be right. He’d told J-Source that “running a start-up is like being punched in the face every day,” and from working with him and seeing how much hard work he put into OpenFile, I believed it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided to wait.
That was three months ago. And here’s where it gets messy.
As December and January came and went, more and more contributors emailed me to get me to add what they were owed to my tally. For several, it was more than $1000. And they also shared messages they’d received from Dinnick that often seemed to contradict each other.
In early December, for instance, some freelancers got an email from Dinnick saying, without promising any exact date, that the audit would likely be finished within two weeks. Towards the end of December, Dinnick told another freelancer that they would receive a cheque within weeks. In early January, others were being told that the audit was now done, but that cheques would be sent out by the end of that month. On January 10, Wilf tweeted to two journalists that payments were “all being wrapped up now.” On January 17, he told Bethany Horne, a former OpenFile Toronto intern and freelancer (before my time) and an OpenFile Halifax curator (after that) in an email that “checks and letters are now being processed and being sent out over the next several weeks.” (Horne was the only person willing to let me quote directly from Dinnick’s emails to her and use her name.) In another email that day, he wrote back with a new deadline: “anywhere from 7 days to 4 weeks. I am obviously hoping for sooner, and since we have been in touch ongoing with the govt, I am sure it will be sooner. So I would guess end of the month or LATEST start of next.”
In another email sent to Horne later that day, Dinnick told her something he told others as well: “I am sending checks NOW so when the cash is released, I will ping you and you can cash, so there is no waiting time.”
By the end of the month, Horne says she still didn’t have a cheque, or her money. She emailed Dinnick again on January 30. “Your check will be delivered when the auditors clears everything and we can send them out, which I am sure has already happened or will happen shortly,” he wrote back.
In early February, Dinnick told another freelancer that cheques were being processed, and that he wasn’t sure how long it would take. Maybe days more, maybe weeks.
All the while, one freelancer tells me that Dinnick “never responded to my e-mails asking about payment,” and several others who say they’re owed money say they’ve been without any sort of update for months, or that they’ve emailed Dinnick but haven’t heard back. Some have given up. Others are weighing their legal options.
But, four and a half months later, none of those I’ve spoken to have been paid yet. None have received cheques. None have received information on the “exact release date of your money,” as Dinnick promised they would have by the end of November.
Enough’s enough. I’ve decided to stop waiting and publish the total amount of money they all say they’re owed, which as I write this in mid-February is $12,530. I’ll keep that number updated above if it shrinks (which I hope it does, soon) or grows (which it will if there are more people out there owed money by OpenFile who haven’t emailed me yet). Maybe everyone who’s owed money is actually just a few days away from getting it after all, but the number may well get bigger before it gets smaller: Kathy Vey, OpenFile’s editor-in-chief while I was there, told me recently that when she left the publication in February 2012, each of the six cities was paying between $4,500 and $6,500 a month just to freelancers.
Last Tuesday, February 5, I emailed Dinnick again. I told him I was writing this, and he agreed to answer, on the record, a list of questions that I sent him. But a week later he still hasn’t, even after three more emails on three different days over the last week from me asking for his replies, including one this morning in which I said I’d be publishing the total today. I’ve finally run out of good excuses to not write this, try as I might to find them. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; after J-Source’s article was published in November, in the email he sent to freelancers, Dinnick wrote that he was “not going to be speaking with the media anymore on this issue, only because it has created confusion.” They’re not the only ones who’re confused.
APRIL 17, 2013
The good news: for the first time, the tally above is going down, rather than up—as of April 9, it was $21,343.50, but as I write this, it’s now at $13,687.00, and it’s likely to keep going down over the next few days. That’s because, nearly seven months after OpenFile went “on pause,” and two months after I published this post, some contributors say they’re finally being paid. (Several got cheques earlier this month, postdated for mid-April, that they’re cashing now.)
The bad news: several of those owed money say they haven’t received a thing yet, several of those who have received cheques say they’re not for the full amount, and I keep hearing from more new people, asking me to add their numbers to the total. Dinnick still hasn’t answered the questions I sent back in February, though he told J-Source right after I published the initial total that everyone owed money would be repaid in “a matter of weeks,” and that they were in the “final stretch.” But it’s not quite over yet.
DECEMBER 4, 2013
Half a year ago, OpenFile seemed well on its way to repaying everything it owed (or at least everything I knew about). It’s stalled since then, though: as I write this, the total amount has been sitting at $4,640.60 for two months, and many of those who say they’re still owed money say that Wilf Dinnick stopped responding to their emails months ago—it’s a smaller group now, few of whom are owed much. So I emailed Dinnick today, and told him I wanted to talk on the record about how much longer it would take to repay everyone, and what’s taken so long. It’s the first time in nearly a year I’ve put those questions to him; he never answered them the last time. He told me to call him, and when I did, he told me off.
"Just to be clear, I don’t owe you an explanation," he said. There are only "two people that are owed money," he told me, and, for that matter, "one I actually have a problem with." A few minutes later, he told me that, actually, only one person hasn’t been paid, and "there’s two other people—contractors—and those are private issues. It’s got nothing to do with you."
I told Dinnick that wasn’t what I was hearing—that there were more people than that still waiting on a cheque.
"That’s fine, David. I don’t care what you’re hearing. I don’t care what you’re hearing, David, I really don’t. This has nothing—you have nothing—to do with me," he said. "We don’t have a relationship, I’m not your friend. Like, I don’t get it. All you’re doing is you’re pestering me, you’re being annoying, you’re not—it’s not constructive, there’s nothing constructive here, so I think it’s best…"
I interrupted Dinnick to remind him this call was on the record.
"Okay David. I know that you’ve got some sort of vendetta, or you’re angry at me or something, I don’t know…"
That wasn’t true, I told him. (Dinnick had also told me early in the call that “I say one thing to you and then you tweet out nasty things so I’m not really interested in engaging,” which also isn’t true, and he couldn’t point to any “nasty things” I’ve said when I asked.)
"I just think it’s best you don’t call me or email me anymore because you’re really unconstructive, okay?" he said. "So I really wish you good luck."
I told Dinnick the truth, that I thought it was great that OpenFile had repaid more than twenty thousand dollars it owed to freelancers. “Oh thank you for that, David,” he said back, “but you know, according to you I wasn’t going to pay that back, right?” I told him I’d never said or suggested that, either. “Yeah, well, I—you know. This is really not helpful, David. I don’t know what you want from me.”
What would be helpful, then, I pressed, if people wanted to get the money they’re still owed back?
"Okay, look. Listen, David, I’m really not interested in engaging with you, okay? I’ve really been, I’ve felt, overgenerous with you. I don’t owe you an explanation, and I’ve had a great working relationship with everyone. And you’re the only one…"
I started to say that there were plenty of people I’ve talked to who’d say otherwise. And I still wanted to know what I called him to ask about: how much longer would it take to repay everyone, and what’s taken so long? But then, to someone in the background, I heard him say, “I’m coming, hold on, I’m coming.” Then back to me: “I gotta go, David, okay? Take care. Good luck.” And then he hung up.