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Most Frequently Asked
Do I have to be a U.S. resident or U.S. citizen to apply for FIRE?
You may reside and work either domestically or internationally, and need not be a citizen of the U.S. But for other eligibility restrictions, see below and Guidelines and Application.
Can I receive support to produce something for an outlet outside the US?
Yes, although only for an English-language outlet. We generally give priority to projects serving U.S. or U.K. outlets. To qualify for FIRE’s newest service—contractual-related legal assistance—you must be planning or reporting a story for a U.S.-based outlet.
Can I receive FIRE's assistance for work in a language other than English?
We can only work in English and serve only English-language outlets. We cannot supply translators, although we welcome referrals for the future. If you are seeking legal assistance for a story, it must be planned for a U.S. outlet (since the attorneys we work with specialize in U.S. media law).
When is the next deadline?
FIRE is now accepting applications by rolling deadline only. For details and directions, please visit Guidelines and Application.
When will I know if I am selected?
To apply, you would first visit Guidelines and Application to submit an inquiry for a FIRE Consultancy. We aim to respond to inquiries within two weeks. If your inquiry is accepted for the consultancy, you would be invited to apply, which involves additional vetting. If selected, you would be eligible for a Virtual Newsroom.
What if I have a more immediate reporting need?
If your inquiry clearly specifies the reason for the time-sensitivity, we would do our best to review it quickly enough to accommodate your story needs, while remaining fair to other reporters.
Does FIRE award grants?
It does. All Virtual Newsrooms come with grants to cover time or reporting expenses on a proposed story. To be eligible for a Virtual Newsroom, you must first be selected for a FIRE Consultancy.
How many grants do you give out, and how big?
FIRE awards grants of up to $12,500, most falling in the range of $5,000 to $10,000. This support helps freelance reporters complete investigations for publication or broadcast. FIRE also offers two smaller stipends: "Proposal Grants" to develop an initial story pitch for commission or funding; and "Indemnification Grants" to subsidize the reporter's time to find a publisher or broadcaster that accepts full story liability. More here.
Do I have to apply for a specific type of grant or amount?
No. You would start by submitting an inquiry for a FIRE Consultancy. If you are invited to apply for a Virtual Newsroom, you would not need to specify which type of grant you’d prefer, submit an amount request, or include a budget. FIRE determines any funding for Virtual Newsroom awards, including amount, in the application review process.
Does FIRE help with legal protection, insurance, or contracts?
FIRE accepts inquiries on a rolling-deadlines basis for our Legal Consultancy—which provides access to pro bono attorneys for customized contractual-related legal assistance. Virtual Newsroom recipients would also qualify for prepublication legal review and fact-checking of their story. FIRE’s Virtual Newsroom supports only stories for which an outlet promises to indemnify a reporter.
Can FIRE refer me to any other services or support?
A FIRE Consultancy is designed to help a reporter identify or clarify particular needs to achieve successful custom solutions. The process can result in referrals to other organizations to supplement FIRE’s assistance. For a glance at what’s available from allied organizations, view our Resources page.
I have a question about my application that is not answered here. What can I do?
You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org, marking “FIRE application question” in the subject line. We will do our best to reply in a timely manner.
Eligibility and Qualifications
If I am affiliated with a news site or center for investigative reporting, do I qualify?
Not if you want to do a story only for the outlet you're affiliated with. FIRE serves freelancers. You must produce a piece for a separate outlet with which you’re not affiliated. Your piece would have to run for that other outlet before, or at the same time as, it appears for your site.
May I request Virtual Newsroom support for more than one project?
FIRE prefers to consider one story at a time, per person.
Do you support multiple-reporter teams?
As long as they meet other criteria, freelance applicants working together on a story can apply to FIRE. Please note that if a grant is awarded, the grant will be awarded to one person; the team is responsible for sharing all resources and/or the grant—and ensuring that all relevant parties comply with FIRE guidelines.
What if I applied previously?
If you are invited to apply, we can usually draw on any material you previously submitted. To begin, you must first submit an email inquiry, following instructions at Guidelines and Application.
What if I want support for a story and some portion of the material has already appeared elsewhere?
We support only original reporting. If you have reported material in any form previously, or if anyone else has reported similar material in any form previously, your project would have to substantially advance the material.
Do you support book projects?
If you are also planning to turn your reported material into a book, that’s fine. But we support original reporting for release in periodical media only—broadcast, newspaper, web publications, magazine outlets, etc.
Can a newspaper, magazine, broadcast station or other outlet apply?
No representative of an outlet may apply for FIRE, even on behalf of a freelance reporter.
Services: Virtual Newsroom v. Editorial Consultancy
What’s the difference between an Editorial Consultancy and Virtual Newsroom?
Whether for legal assistance, reporting assistance, or both, a FIRE Consultancy provides a minimum of up to two hours of complimentary advice, orientation, and referrals for freelance independent reporters, on a one-time basis. The Virtual Newsroom provides a range of reporting services, accompanied by a grant. For more, visit FIRE Guidelines.
If I am awarded the Virtual Newsroom, do I automatically get a grant?
Yes. The Virtual Newsroom comes with a grant and a range of reporting services.
What if I just want the grant from the Virtual Newsroom, but none of the accompanying services?
If you are invited to apply, the application will give you a list of the services FIRE offers and ask you to choose the most relevant or important ones for you. If you don’t need any, you will have a chance to mark accordingly—and just request the money.
Can I apply for every category of Virtual Newsroom services?
Yes, but it’s important to prioritize the resources you need to complete your project. If you are invited to apply, you will have an opportunity to select the most important FIRE services for your project, and if they change, inform us later.
It says that a FIRE Consultancy provides up to two hours of complimentary help, on a one-time basis. What if I need to follow up?
At our sole discretion, FIRE may augment a consultancy with additional time, access to specialized contractors or services, or referrals for additional assistance. Due to limited resources, we can commit in advance to only two hours of staff time for each FIRE Consultancy recipient. (In select cases, recipients are invited to apply for the Virtual Newsroom, which provides far more editorial time, more robust services, and grant support.)
Mechanics and Details of Applying
To start, you would send in a brief inquiry for the FIRE Consultancy, following instructions at Guidelines and Application. We try to review inquiries within two weeks. If your inquiry is accepted, you would be invited to apply. If invited to apply, you would fill out a questionnaire; submit a resume, three work samples, and a one-page Story Proposal Form; and answer any additional story-related questions. If selected, you may be invited to apply for a Virtual Newsroom.
I would like to apply for the Virtual Newsroom. Do I need to have an assignment letter, or other kind of commitment from a publication or broadcaster in order to qualify?
FIRE’s initial application process does not require an outlet commitment. All FIRE applicants must first inquire with the FIRE Consultancy program at Guidelines and Application. If you are invited to apply for a consultancy and are accepted, you would be eligible for an invitation to apply to the Virtual Newsroom. At that point, commitment from a publisher or broadcaster would be a factor—and would be required before you could receive the Virtual Newsroom. The outlet would have to meet basic journalistic standards as determined by FIRE, which includes legally protecting you for your story. But you don’t need such a commitment to inquire with FIRE. In addition, the FIRE Consultancy is set up to help you find an outlet—as well as any funding possible, through FIRE or another organization.
Does FIRE provide opportunities for freelance investigative editors or fact-checkers?
It does. FIRE also commissions experienced freelance investigative editors and fact-checkers to work with freelancer reporters on their stories on a contract basis. Interested editors or fact-checkers should check Hiring Opportunities or contact FIRE, selecting the "Editor/Fact-checker" category from the drop-down menu.
Can FIRE refer me to any other services or support?
A FIRE Consultancy is designed to help a reporter identify or clarify particular needs for custom solutions. The process can result in referrals to other organizations to supplement FIRE’s assistance. For a glance at what’s available from allied organizations, view our Resources page.
Does your program provide accreditation credentials for covering news events?
It does not. For ideas on credentials or how to identify yourself in the early-stage interviews (before your piece is commissioned), feel free to email email@example.com.