Project Word in the News
After receiving 100 story proposals earlier this year, FIRE has begun providing a handful of diverse reporters with stipends and Virtual Newsroom reporting tools—from editing referrals to LexisNexis research assistance. We are also assisting more than a dozen additional reporters with Help Desk services—advice and referrals on story development and funding opportunities.
In August, we expect to announce one more stipend winner from among those who already submitted applications. Any 2016 applicant who did not receive a stipend is automatically eligible. While no further action is required, any reports or updates may be sent with the subject line, "FIRE Update", to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, we will be conducting a thorough review of the FIRE application process—what worked, what didn’t. We encourage any 2016 applicants to provide feedback on their experience by emailing email@example.com with the subject line, "Application Feedback". We will contact you from there.
As soon as we complete this review process, we will announce another full round of applications.
We will continue to keep you informed on application timelines and dates. For the latest, please continue to check the Project Word website and our periodic e-newsletter.
Project Word is circulating the following job opening for FIRE.
FIRE Program Coordinator
About Project Word
Project Word advances the public interest by helping freelance investigative journalists with diverse backgrounds from around the world. Joining the Project Word team means you’ll be helping independent reporters to address critical reporting challenges in the public interest.
Project Word is seeking a Program Coordinator to undertake key administrative and programmatic tasks associated with Freelance Investigative Reporters & Editors (FIRE), a program that provides newsroom services and stipends to unaffiliated investigative reporters. The Program Coordinator will provide general support for a range of FIRE activities, working closely with Project Word’s Director to coordinate FIRE operations.
- Correspond with FIRE applicants and reporters; freelance editors, fact-checkers, and other service-providers; and a range of professional allies;
- Schedule reporting services/events;
- Create and update reports, proposals, and presentations;
- Maintain and update program database;
- Support grant proposals and inquiries;
- Help build a clearinghouse of relevant resources for independent reporters.
- Minimum 2 years of experience as administrative assistant, program coordinator, or relevant position;
- Tech savvy, proficient in MS Office;
- Self-starter with a "can-do" attitude and ability to work independently as well as part of a team;
- Highly organized and able to manage several projects simultaneously;
- Flexibility to accommodate some short-term deadlines and varying work flow;
- Outstanding verbal and written communication skills;
- Commitment to and/or background in freelance investigative journalism a plus.
This is a grant-funded, 9-month position, with likelihood of renewal. It is 15 hours/week and does not include benefits. Project Word is based in Great Barrington, MA, but the successful candidate may be based remotely.
How to Apply
Qualified candidates can apply by submitting a resume and cover letter (in one PDF, please) to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 24, 2016. In one page, the cover letter should outline how you meet the specific job requirements, what work environment brings out your best effort, and how this job would fit your career objectives. Three references will be required for finalists.
Project Word encourages candidates of all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds to apply. Personnel are chosen on the basis of ability without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, disability, marital status or sexual orientation, in accordance with federal and state law.
Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE), a collaboration of Project Word and Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), is pleased to announce the selection of six reporters to receive the first ever FIRE Virtual Newsroom services—stipends and accompanying tools to facilitate freelance investigative work.
The selected reporters and their proposal topics include:
- Yvette Cabrera, a Southern California-based freelancer, on criminal justice and law enforcement
- Jonathan Richard Jones, a San Francisco-based freelancer, on US interests in the South Pacific
- Raven Rakia, a New York City-based freelancer
- A freelancer based in the southwest US, on criminal justice
- A Texas-based freelancer, on US-Mexico border relations
- An East Africa-based freelancer, on a military conflict in Africa
The FIRE Selection Committee, composed of five award-winning print and broadcast journalists, chose the reporters from 100 applications covering a wide range of public-interest topics—from municipal criminal justice to US foreign policy.
The awardees will receive the stipends of up to $5,000 along with the full benefit of FIRE’s Virtual Newsroom services—custom reporting services, including research assistance via IRE, a fiscal sponsor of Project Word. More than 20 other applicants are to receive Help Desk services, which will include consultation and referrals to advance their proposals.
The Virtual Newsroom and Help Desk services, the core of this pilot project of FIRE, were crafted to address the challenges and solutions identified in Project Word's 2015 survey of freelance investigative reporters. The pilot offers a model to strengthen this valuable sector of public-interest reporting.
The next call for FIRE proposals is scheduled to take place in June, 2016. For details, please see the Project Word News page in mid-May.
In the meantime, reporters are encouraged to check the following additional opportunities for independent reporters, with deadlines in the next few weeks:
The Fund for Investigative Journalism
The Fund is currently accepting applications from journalists breaking new ground and exposing wrongdoing in the public and private sectors. Grants are meant to cover out-of-pocket expenses and average $5,000. The next deadline in May 16, 2016; detailed application instructions can be found on the FIJ website.
McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism
The fellowship offers editorial support and awards of $5,000 for one to three months to a story involving business or the economy. The opportunity is open to anyone with at least five years of professional journalism experience. The spring application deadline is May 31, 2016; please visit McGraw Center to apply.
For more information, check Project Word's Resources page for a list of professional and funding organizations supporting journalists. If you know of any opportunities not included on this list, please email them to email@example.com.
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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