In 2016, with a $200,000 grant from a generous anonymous donor with a background in news reporting, Project Word launched a pilot project for a program to help unaffiliated journalists, Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE).
FIRE is a collaboration between Project Word, which facilitates investigative reporting by freelancers, and Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a national investigative reporting nonprofit.
Project Word administers FIRE’s suite of reporting tools. IRE, the fiscal sponsor of Project Word, contributes research and training services to the program.
FIRE operates with complete editorial independence from its funding sources.
We do not publish, broadcast, or release stories in any way. The program functions as a service center for investigative freelancers, helping their work appear in various media outlets.
FIRE grew out of the identified needs of freelancers. In 2015, Project Word’s national survey, Untold Stories, found that freelance journalists faced certain critical challenges when pursuing investigative work.
Based on the survey’s findings, which included solutions recommended by freelancers, FIRE crafted two services for investigative freelancer journalists: an Editorial Consultancy and a Virtual Newsroom.
The Editorial Consultancy grew out of the findings that freelancers needed more bandwidth and early-stage help to begin developing stories. The Virtual Newsroom grew out of findings that freelancers needed robust, otherwise unavailable resources to fully develop their stories.
The programs are different in scope:
- The Editorial Consultancy provides up to an hour of help, on a one-time basis. This can consist of basic editorial feedback, funding tips, and referrals for independent reporters, including those new to freelancing or whose project may be in development or preliminary stages.
- The Virtual Newsroom provides in-depth services to freelancers that newsrooms traditionally make available to their staff. This can include research assistance, legal review, professional trainings, and access to experienced freelance editors. In some cases it includes stipends.
Beyond the direct services offered by the Virtual Newsroom and the Editorial Consultancy, FIRE has three overarching objectives:
- To engage the philanthropic community in an effort to ensure that more grants be made available to freelancers in the future, and in greater amounts, especially stipends to compensate reporting time.
- To encourage a transparent exchange between outlets, freelancers, funders, and leaders within the freelance journalism field to resolve some of the field’s most pressing issues, including indemnification and libel insurance.
- To provide a forum for freelance investigative reporters themselves to mitigate the isolation of their work; communicate and exchange intelligence with one another; and promote the highest standards in the field.
Interested in applying to FIRE? The application can be found on the FIRE Guidelines page.
Applicants will automatically receive periodic e-newsletters on the issues, and anyone else wishing to receive them may sign up here.