Project Word in the News
Photo by Nuran Alteir
FIRE, the initiative to aid investigative freelance journalists, has awarded a $5,000 stipend and accompanying use of the FIRE Virtual Newsroom to one additional freelancer from its initial round of applicants—Emily Palmer.
Palmer, working on a national story on child abuse with co-reporter Jessica Huseman, joins a small group that earned the Virtual Newsroom back in April and are currently developing their stories with the FIRE Newsroom tools.
The Virtual Newsroom includes a range of services—from transcribers and contract editors, to LexisNexis research assistance, to general research assistance from the resource center of Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Another 18 reporters are receiving Help Desk Services from Project Word, which translates into an hour of consulting from the executive director on fundraising and story development.
FIRE also has chosen four reporters from the original pool of applicants to receive a combined package—Help Desk services PLUS the Virtual Newsroom: that’s full editorial service without financial support.
With this new service, FIRE can bring the Virtual Newsroom to more reporters than it could otherwise afford to help. We are confident that the results—strengthened stories—will encourage other grant makers to fund expenses for the stories those reporters are working on—and also provide stipends.
FIRE plans to announce our next round of stipend applications, easier and more streamlined, as early as November 15. (If a story is particularly time-sensitive before then, a reporter may check FIRE guidelines before emailing a brief pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Project Word is partnering in the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival and Symposium October 6-8 in DC. The festival will feature new work in a cutting-edge medium for investigative reporting, with intensive discussions and workshops for practicing journalists and filmmakers.
- A Media Law Resource Center event, also in DC, on September 20, will directly address legal issues facing all reporters, especially unaffiliated ones. Those issues also emerged in a well-received panel at IRE’s annual conference in New Orleans, moderated by the Project Word director, on the business of freelancing. For more information on the panel, contact email@example.com.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com. 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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