Founded in 2007, Project Word is dedicated to strengthening freelance investigative reporting nationwide. In 2016, in collaboration with its fiscal sponsor since 2014, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Project Word founded Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE). Project Word director Laird Townsend coordinates FIRE. He has extensive experience in editing, nonprofit management, and journalism education, and works with a range of reporters, journalists associations, and editors nationwide. He is advised by a small group of editorial advisors and a FIRE Selection Committee composed of award-winning journalists representing IRE, Project Word, three journalism schools, and an assortment of national print and broadcast outlets.

Director: Laird Townsend

Laird Townsend is an Associated Press-trained journalist and former magazine editor. For more than 15 years, he has worked with upwards of 100 journalists of all levels, from New York Times reporters to beginners, and has helped a number of journalists make the transition from newspaper and trade reporting to narrative journalism. Before founding Project Word in 2007, he was features editor at Orion magazine, which he helped earn the Utne Independent Press Award for General Excellence in 2004. From 1997 to 2003, he was editor of Terrain magazine, a Berkeley-based environmental news quarterly, where his writers won two Project Censored awards. In addition to directing Project Word, he continues to work as a freelance reporter.

Laird's Work Samples

For journalism articles developed by the editor, click here.
For testimonials from writers he has edited, click here.

Editorial Advisors

The Braintrust

Project Word depends on the following editorial professionals for occasional guidance:

Tom Bettag

Former executive producer of the CBS Evening News and ABC News Nightline; recipient of 30 Emmys; and visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Alfredo Corchado

Mexico City bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News; recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot prize from the School of Journalism at Columbia University for “extraordinary bravery and enterprise”; visiting fellow at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University since 2008; and author of Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey.

Margaret Engel

Executive Director of the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation, which supports investigative journalists and photojournalists worldwide; advisor to the Fund for Investigative Journalism; chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards board; and former reporter for the Washington Post, Des Moines Register, and Lorain (Ohio) Journal, whose work has been nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize.

Cynthia Gorney

Contributing writer at National Geographic and New York Times Magazine; former Washington Post reporter and freelance writer for Harper’s, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and other publications; author of Articles of Faith: A History of the Abortion Wars; and faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Mark Horvit

Executive Director of Investigative Reporters and Editors; associate professor of investigative journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism; board member for the National Freedom of Information Coalition; former projects editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; and former reporter, editor and special projects member at newspapers in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, and Florida.

Brant Houston

Knight Chair in Investigative & Enterprise Reporting, College of Media, University of Illinois; Treasurer, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; former Executive Director of Investigative Reporters and Editors; former award-winning investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 17 years; and journalism textbook author (Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide) and co-author (The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.)

Mark Schapiro

Veteran investigative journalist and freelancer for Harper’s, Atlantic, Newsweek, and other publications; former senior correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting; author, most recently, Carbon Shock: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of a Disrupted Global Economy; and lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism.