FIRE Guidelines

Criteria for support
FIRE supports investigative reporting in all media—stories, images, audio, or video that reveal information that powerful interests may not want known. We especially support stories that use public records, documents, and difficult-to-cultivate sources.

We support independent, unaffiliated reporters—those not formally or materially attached to any newsroom, news site, or outlet. Reporters (including photojournalists, radio producers, videographers, and filmmakers) may reside and work both domestically and internationally. Priority is given to those with proven experience in investigative reporting, but consideration will be given to those who show promise in the field.

Projects we support
We are looking to support work that is innovative, resourceful, thorough, careful, and effectively rendered for maximum impact. We strive to support a mix of journalistic projects according to multiple criteria, including:

  • Medium (from print, photojournalism, and radio, to theater and documentary film)
  • Subject matter (environmental, national security, etc.)
  • Type of reporting (data-driven, narrative, interpretive)
  • Potential impact of work (timely or long-term)
  • Geographic focus (domestic or international)
  • Coverage area (rural or urban)
  • Applicant experience and track record (experienced and promising journalists alike)
  • Applicant background (nationality, identity, culture, ethnicity, race, gender, and socioeconomic status)

Note on funding
We favor stories that we think have a strong chance to succeed with FIRE’s help. In deciding on stipends (and accompanying Newsroom services), we consider the extent to which an applicant can viably finance a project’s reporting expenses elsewhere—by grants, an outlet’s fees, or other sources. You don’t need to secure funding for reporting expenses before you apply, but ultimately must have a plan for doing so.

Toward this end, we encourage applicants to ALSO apply for grants or fellowships from other nonprofit organizations as part of the funding of their stories. This in turn would best leverage any FIRE stipend to complete a project.

Applicants will automatically receive periodic e-newsletters on the issues, and anyone else wishing to receive them may do so here.

How to apply
For both the FIRE Help Desk and Virtual Newsroom, reporters fill out an online application form, which takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. The deadline for the next online application and requested attachments (see below) will be in early 2017, see News for updates.

  1. For Help Desk Services
    If you require only Help Desk services—and those services only—you will simply check the appropriate box on the online application form; unless contacted otherwise, your application will be complete.
  2. For Virtual Newsroom
    If you check the box for Newsroom, you will be applying for a stipend and any accompanying newsroom services. For this you will be asked to choose the services you need on the online application form, ranking their importance—and also to email in a resume, three work samples, and a completed one-page Story Proposal Form.

    After you fill out the online application, you would email these attachments (in one email only, please) to, marking the subject line with “FIRE application: [your name]” (e.g., “FIRE application: Casey Jones”).

Note on attachments
The Story Proposal Form will ask you to provide brief background to clarify your reporting objective; tell us the most important thing you’ve found so far, and/or are looking to find; and sketch the project’s most pressing needs. If you also want to submit additional pages or documents, you may feel free to do so—but only IN ADDITION TO the one-page Story Proposal Form: we cannot guarantee that anything else will be considered. Where applicable, resume should include any reporting work. Where possible, please include work samples from at least one outlet that does in-house fact-checking.

The deadline for all application materials—the online form and the attachments for the Newsroom applicants—will be announced shortly. If you have a time-sensitive story, you may email a brief inquiry to

Once you begin the process of applying, there is no need to submit the online application and attachments simultaneously: you may submit the application first, taking as much time as you need to prepare the attachments before deadline. Please do not send attachments in separate emails, please send them together in a single email.

As long as you keep the questionnaire in the same computer and browser (and don't reboot), you don’t have to finish it in one sitting; you may close and return to it until it’s complete.

However, please note: In order to save your responses as you go (quit and come back), you must use the same browser on the same computer. Otherwise, your responses won’t be saved. It is also advisable to keep your computer on: do not shut down or restart your computer. That could cause your answers to disappear as well (you might check if your computer reboots automatically).

Review and selection
Applicants will be screened by a Selection Committee to be composed of representatives from IRE, Project Word, and other organizations in the field. We expect to select up to 15 reporters for Help Desk services, and at least five reporters for stipends and the accompanying Virtual Newsroom. Applicants will be notified of their status promptly. If you are a recipient, we will work with you to develop terms of engagement, including scope of services, anticipated to cover six months. We will base the scope in part on how you rank the importance of any services to your project. While we cannot guarantee any particular services requested, we will do our best to accommodate your request. Where relevant, the agreement will specify any time parameters associated with reporting services that FIRE makes available.

For any updates on FIRE, visit News, and for more information on the application process, FAQ and Services.

To learn from our pilot project, FIRE has distributed a questionnaire to all 2016 applicants. As soon as we incorporate the results, we will announce our next round of applications. We expect to make the announcement in early 2017.