Project Word in the News
Project Word is pleased to announce the pilot of a new program, Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE). Launched with a $200,000 grant from an anonymous donor, FIRE has heeded the recommendations of freelancers gathered in a 2015 national survey, which found that declining pay and other resource constraints were causing a crisis in independent reporting.
The program is a collaboration between Project Word and Investigative Reporters and Editors. It will provide two basic services: 1) a Help Desk for referrals, and 2) a Virtual Newsroom for stipends and a suite of reporting tools. To apply to FIRE, reporters are encouraged to read the program's Guidelines page. Application deadline is February 10, 2016.
FIRE has a small stable of experienced freelance investigative editors and fact-checkers who will work on a contract basis with freelancer reporters on their stories. Interested editors or fact-checkers should contact Project Word, selecting the "Editor/Fact-checker" category from the drop-down menu.
If you are a freelance reporter interested in applying to FIRE, go to the program's Guidelines page.
Over the past five years, declining pay and other resource constraints have prevented at least 500 to 1,000 stories from reaching the public and caused several hundreds of freelancers to drastically curtail their reporting in the public interest.
Those are among the findings of a national survey on freelance investigative reporting conducted by Project Word in mid-2014, which we’ve released in a 32-page report below (and which the Columbia Journalism Review has covered here).
The survey was the first of its kind that we know of—and it evidently struck a chord. Respondents left a remarkable outpouring of comments and we are including a selection of them in an appendix below.
Both reports portray accounts of a little-appreciated crisis: pay declining, editors overstretched, freelancers reaching into their own pockets to do the work, a resulting loss of at least 560 public-interest stories from respondents alone. But both also air a range of creative solutions from freelancers themselves. We hope these ideas will open a dialogue. We hope that dialogue will ultimately transform the crisis, helping independent reporters fulfill their role in democracy.
If you are interested in these issues and not already receiving Project Word updates, please sign up here.
Note on Additional Resources: The report’s Resources section includes many important programs and organizations for freelancers—inevitably we omitted many valuable listings. We apologize for the oversights and will update you with additional resources here. We welcome additional suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Inside Philanthropy, a publication reporting on accessibility, transparency, and accountability in philanthropy, had this to say about Untold Stories: "Foundations have done a lot of good work in trying to pick up the slack in investigative reporting. But clearly much still needs to be done in this area, and funders could find no better source for refining their initiatives than the feedback offered by reporters on the front line as covered in the Project Word survey." Posting of other coverage follows in Project Word's News section.
The Columbia Journalism Review, the premiere journalism trade publication in the US, covered Project Word’s national survey on freelance investigative reporting in a two-page story featuring quotes from Project Word director Laird Townsend and infographics from the report on the survey results.
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This facilitator of reporting grants posted an alert about our "groundbreaking survey of investigative freelance reporters."