FIRE, a fiscally sponsored project of the nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), provides reporting and legal services to freelance reporters by arranging customized access to the experienced journalists and lawyers below. We award grants with the help of a Selection Committee and rely on guidance from the advisors further below.
FIRE provides freelancers with customized access to the editorial personnel below and referrals to additional experts as necessary.
Investigative Advisor: Sahar Habib Ghazi
Sahar Habib Ghazi, most recently South Asia Senior Editor for Vice World News, has been a journalism trainer, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships applicant reviewer, New York Times contributor, and the producer of The Disposable Ally, a documentary series examining Pakistan and U.S. funding on the war on terror. Ghazi was managing editor of Global Voices from 2012 to 2018 and is currently freelancing from California.
FOIA Lawyer: Tuan Samahon
Tuan Samahon, a law professor specializing in government transparency and access to federal public records, has helped numerous journalists and authors file Freedom of Information Act requests and associated lawsuits against a range of federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He teaches law at Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law.
FIRE Director: Laird Townsend
Laird Townsend is an Associated Press-trained journalist and award-winning investigative reporter and editor. Before founding FIRE's predecessor, Project Word, in 2007, he was features editor at Orion magazine. His own multi-year investigation of labor allegations against GMO seed-corn companies won the 2017 Peter Lisagor award of the Society for Professional Journalists, Chicago, for Best Investigative/Public Service Reporting, online.
Researcher: Margot Williams
Margot Williams, a nationally recognized former research editor at major national outlets, has worked on every conceivable story—from police shootings of civilians in 1998, and terrorism in 2001, for which her teams won Pulitzer prizes at the Washington Post; to Guantanamo leaks by Chelsea Manning for the New York Times and NPR; to National Security Agency leaks by Edward Snowden for the Intercept. Williams is now a freelance research consultant affiliated with the Intercept.
Glasser, a veteran newsroom and First Amendment attorney and libel defense litigator, is an ex-journalist and the former global media counsel at Bloomberg News. Currently a lecturer at City University of New York Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, and an adjunct professor at New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, he is author and editor of “The International Libel and Privacy Handbook” (Fifth Edition, 2020-2021, Lexis/Nexis).
Kaufman has been a nationally-recognized leader of the publishing and media law bar for more than three decades. Formerly general counsel of the Association of American Publishers, Kaufman served as founder and former general counsel of the Libel Defense Resource Center (now the Media Law Resource Center). His current practice focuses on litigation and transactional matters for a variety of media, specializing in both First Amendment and Intellectual Property law.
Stracher a 30-year veteran media and entertainment lawyer who currently works in private practice for a range of clients including the Daily Mail and MailOnline, has served as former litigation counsel at CBS, partner at Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, Senior Vice President at Media Professional Insurance (now Axis), and General Counsel at American Media, publisher of National Enquirer and Us Weekly. Stracher was co-founder of the Program in Law & Journalism at New York Law School.
FIRE is a fiscally sponsored project of the nonprofit Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). It is administered by the following personnel:
Project Director: Laird Townsend
Laird Townsend is an award-winning investigative journalist and founder of FIRE. He directs FIRE's operations, programming, and fundraising.
Finance Director: Heather Feldman Henry
Heather Feldman Henry is the Finance Director for Investigative Reporters and Editors and acts as FIRE's chief accountant.
Program Associate: Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin is a veteran support specialist with experience at a private-investigations firm. She coordinates all FIRE operations, including reporter administration.
Information Technology Associate: Eric Brenner
Eric Brenner is a website developer and consultant serving national and international clients. He provides website administration and technology support.
FIRE depends on the following editorial professionals for occasional guidance:
Journalism professor and founding executive editor of the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School; previously award-winning war correspondent and U.S. investigations editor for The Associated Press; deputy managing editor for investigations and enterprise at The Dallas Morning News; and founding director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Eleanor Merrill Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland; former executive producer of the CBS Evening News and ABC News Nightline; recipient of 30 Emmys, two Peabody awards, six DuPont silver batons, and the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award.
Former FIRE Investigative Editor; previously 11-year editor of the Investigative team for The Associated Press in Washington, which he led to the Pulitzer and Goldsmith prizes for investigative reporting, among other awards; now the Rob Hiaasen Senior Lecturer in Investigative Reporting in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida.
Mexico City bureau chief of The Dallas Morning News; recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot prize from the School of Journalism at Columbia University for “extraordinary bravery and enterprise”; and author of Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration (2018); and Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey (2013).
Executive Director of the Alicia Patterson Journalism Foundation, which supports investigative journalists and photojournalists worldwide; advisor to the Fund for Investigative Journalism; chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards board; and former reporter for the Washington Post, Des Moines Register, and Lorain (Ohio) Journal, whose work has been nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize.
Contributing writer at National Geographic and New York Times Magazine; former Washington Post reporter and freelance writer for Harper’s, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and other publications; author of Articles of Faith: A History of the Abortion Wars; and faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
State Government Reporting director and associate professor of investigative journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism; board member for the National Freedom of Information Coalition; previously executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, projects editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and reporter at newspapers in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, and Florida.
Knight Chair in Investigative & Enterprise Reporting, College of Media, University of Illinois; journalism textbook author (Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide and the co-authored Investigative Reporter’s Handbook); Treasurer, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; former Executive Director of Investigative Reporters and Editors; and award-winning investigative reporter at daily newspapers for 17 years.
Managing Director of PBS FRONTLINE responsible for all operational aspects of the program, formerly managing director of the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism; and previously senior producer at CBS Interactive; CNN producer in D.C. and San Francisco for nearly a decade; and reporter/producer at Associated Press Radio.
President and CEO of ITVS; formerly director of the Sundance Institute's Documentary film and Artist Programs; director of the Enterprise Documentary Fund at the International Documentary Association (IDA); producer of Academy Award-nominated documentary The Weather Underground and Al Jazeera America’s Peabody-winning Fault Lines series; and director of the film The Ballad of Fred Hersch.
Executive Producer at The WNET Group; former Senior Producer for PBS NewsHour Weekend; producer at New York Public Radio/WNYC for the daily national news program "The Takeaway"; over 25 years' experience in television news, collaborating on CBS 60 Minutes and Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt; Peabody Award winner for her breaking coverage of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.
Veteran investigative journalist and freelancer for Harper’s, Atlantic, Newsweek, and other publications; former senior correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting; author, most recently, Carbon Shock: A Tale of Risk and Calculus on the Front Lines of a Disrupted Global Economy; and lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism.
James B. Steele
Legendary investigative journalist; pioneer in the use of data and public-records; and co-winner, in a 40-year reporting collaboration with Donald L. Barlett at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Time, and Vanity Fair, of more than 50 professional awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Magazine Awards, and six George Polk Awards.
FIRE is administered with guidance from an informal committee composed of the following editorial and nonprofit-management experts:
Project manager in philanthropy, social venture, and private equity fields; consultant on budget strategy and program planning for clients from Ernst and Young to Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Veteran researcher, marketing consultant, and communications specialist; former advisor to the Centre for Investigative Journalism; former marketing director for Salon and Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
Award-winning journalist, journalism professor, and nonprofit-journalism leader; former director of Investigative Reporters and Editors; former chair of Institute for Nonprofit News.
Management consultant for nonprofit organizations in philanthropy, architecture, public planning, and social justice fields; former senior leader at the American Institute of Architects and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.
Nonprofit communications specialist, product strategist, and development consultant in education and journalism; current Content Strategist for Meta; former Director of Institutional Giving at NPR West.
The FIRE Selection Committee chooses reporters for Virtual Newsroom grants. It is composed of award-winning journalists affiliated with Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), three journalism schools, and an assortment of national print and broadcast outlets — identities confidential by agreement.