FIRE offers two programs to investigative freelancers—an Editorial Consultancy and a Virtual Newsroom. They are two unique programs. Applicants can apply to one or the other. Here are specific details on each program.
1. Editorial Consultancy
The Editorial Consultancy provides selected applicants with up to an hour of complimentary help, on a one-time basis, in the following areas:
A. Funding referrals
If you have a story idea but no funding to report it, FIRE can provide advice or refer you to funding sources for the story’s reporting expenses. If you don’t have a specific project or are new to the field, we can provide a general overview of the funding landscape.
B. Editorial advice
If you need general counseling, we would provide brief feedback and advice—including on developing a story or finding an appropriate outlet for it.
The editorial advice in the hour-long consultation is tailored to each individual reporter. Depending on the reporter’s needs, this consultation might accomplish any of the following:
- gain tips to solve a particular reporting problem
- learn more about the freelancer landscape generally
- find new sources for a story
- come up with a story idea or angle that might be compelling to editors (or a particular editor)
- identify options for an editor or outlet for the story
- learn about funding opportunities for a story idea
- identify appropriate professional trainings
II. Virtual Newsroom
Virtual Newsroom recipients have access to the services below on a case-by-case basis. Some recipients are also awarded stipends of $2,500 to $10,000. FIRE generally does not provide editing help on pieces that an outlet has already commissioned. FIRE also does not provide legal advice.
A. Editorial and reporting
- Editing, early stages
Developmental editing at the outset of a story: help formulating pitches and early-stage stories for pitch to a funder or an outlet.
- Editing, late stages
Developmental editing on a reported story: help with new angle or general advancement, if a proposal needs to be re-pitched to a funder or outlet.
- Research requests
Database searches and other high-powered tools: For access to Lexis/Nexis or Accurint, a FIRE reporter can submit requests to a trained researcher at IRE headquarters, who sends back results.
- Open-Records requests
Assistance in obtaining government documents—general referral and guidance, on both Freedom of Information Act and state requests. In select cases, we may arrange pro bono legal help.
- Data consultation
In limited cases we arrange access to experts for training and assistance on data-driven stories, including troubleshooting and design of custom databases
- Resource library
In limited cases we arrange access to expert assistance in finding research materials for stories
- Data entry
In limited cases, we contract data entry personnel to help you fill in necessary spreadsheets or databases for data-driven stories.
- Transcription assistance
In limited cases, we contract transcribers to supplement your transcriptions of interviews, for both print and broadcast.
B. Working with outlets
- Story placement
If you have financed and reported a story to any extent, but need help identifying an appropriate editor or outlet for the work, we may be able to help connect you with such an editor or outlet.
Provision of mutually agreeable contract language: We may be able to provide boilerplate contract language, potentially adaptable to particular circumstances, relevant to legal protection and copyright. In select cases, where available, we may be able to arrange pro bono legal help in the customization process.
C. Advanced Assistance
Available only in the rare instances in which 1) an outlet is unable to provide adequate fact-checking, or 2) a reporter or outlet would benefit from fact-checking in advance of an outlet’s own fact checking process.
- Legal review
Referrals for legal review and fact-checking to “bulletproof” a story against libel. In rare cases, and only where available, we may be able to arrange pro bono legal help for legal review.
Guidance and general intelligence on how to navigate the question of legal protection for a story. In rare cases, only where available, we may be able to arrange pro bono legal counsel on issues related to indemnification.
D. Funding Referrals
- Advice on obtaining additional grants and multiple grants
If you have already received a grant for reporting expenses on a story and still need more funding, we may be able to refer you to additional funding sources. Where appropriate and possible, we may be able to facilitate your receipt of multiple grants for the story.
E. Professional development
FIRE arranges limited trainings in two areas: the business side of being a freelancer (e.g., taxes, time management, revenue planning) and the editorial demands of freelance investigations.