FIRE Pilot Project

With a $200,000 grant from a generous anonymous donor with a background in news reporting, Project Word has launched a one-year pilot project for a program to help independent journalists, Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE).

FIRE is a collaboration between Project Word and Investigative Reporters and Editors. Project Word administers the program’s suite of reporting tools; IRE, the fiscal sponsor of Project Word, contributes research and training services. The program operates with complete editorial independence from its funding sources.

FIRE was formed to address the results of a national survey released in 2015. The survey found that freelancers were facing critical challenges in pursuing investigative work.

Based on the survey results and the freelancers' own recommended solutions, FIRE provides two services, both of which freelance investigative reporters may apply for:

1) Help Desk—Up to an hour of a complimentary help, on a one-time basis, from basic editorial feedback to funding tips and referrals for any independent reporters—including those new to freelancing or currently without a well-developed story project.

2) Virtual Newsroom—In-depth services that newsrooms traditionally make available, including limited stipends and accompanying resources: research assistance, legal review, professional trainings, and access to experienced freelance editors.

The pilot project runs through early 2017, with the benefit of an evaluation in December, 2016, to best ensure the program’s viability on a permanent basis for freelance investigative reporters.

For full list of reporting tools available, see FIRE Services.

Stipend and Virtual Newsroom
Given budget restraints, FIRE disburses very limited direct funding to reporters. The grants come only in the form of stipends, to partially cover the substantial reporting time (and thus living expenses) required for investigative work.

For those who earn a stipend, we will also arrange to make certain Virtual Newsroom services available, on a case-by-case basis. For the most part, these services are only available to those who are awarded a FIRE stipend. But we have recently begun to make them more widely available, including to those who do not receive stipends.

Beyond these services to reporters, FIRE aims to encourage the philanthropic community to grant freelancers more stipends in the future, in greater amounts, to compensate reporting time—the life’s blood of independent reporting. We also aim to stimulate discussion within a community to resolve some of the field’s most pressing issues, including indemnification and libel insurance, and to encourage a forum for information and exchange between outlets, freelancers, funders, and leaders in the field. Applicants will automatically receive periodic e-newsletters on the issues, and anyone else wishing to receive them may sign up here.

Interested in applying? The application can be found on the FIRE Guidelines page.