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FIRE Tip Sheets convey expert guidance to help media outlets and freelance reporters arrange viable contracts for public-interest investigations.  An annotated list of the complete FIRE Tip Sheets appears here.

Exploring the downside

Does adding a freelancer affect premiums? 

Protecting an individual freelancer does not incur additional cost, immediately or otherwise—premium rates do not rise when a publisher or broadcaster chooses to indemnify an independent contractor.

They may rise for other reasons. Typically it happens when an outlet unexpectedly takes on a new identity—a different mission, focus, or emphasis bringing a different risk. Let’s say a newspaper secured insurance for local tourism coverage, but then abruptly started investigating alleged corruption among state politicians, which began provoking litigious hostile sources.

In that case, the insurance carrier could claim that the publisher’s original application misrepresented its content—and demand to renegotiate terms for the following year, or even outright deny coverage for a claim.  

But that’s true regardless of whether the newspaper used staff reporters or freelancers. Conversely, if the paper has been doing accountability journalism all along, hiring a freelancer doesn’t really change anything, or add any extra cost.  


It’s true that a newer outlet may pay slightly higher premiums for relying heavily on independent contractors. But that’s because the outlet is new; it has no track record or internal practices known to insurance carriers. That disparity tends to disappear over time as the outlet adopts and refines rigorous vetting procedures—for staff reporters and freelancers alike: the more an outlet proves its journalistic reliability, the less price disparity it incurs for using independent contractors.  

For established outlets there is no difference.

In any case, that’s in the aggregate. As for the use of individual freelancers, the publisher or broadcaster doesn’t usually even need to inform its insurance carrier at all, because most policies allow the outlet to include independent contractors automatically or as the outlet sees fit, without paperwork.

About the FIRE Tip Sheets

FIRE Tip Sheets highlight some of the key questions raised at a 2021 FIRE panel on freelancer liability. Future guides will address intellectual property, pay rates, and other key issues for freelancers. An annotated list of the complete FIRE Tip Sheets appears here

FIRE Tip Sheets are made available for educational and informational purposes only: They are not legal advice. FIRE makes no representation or warranty for any particular fitness of purpose and is not responsible for the effect of any reliance upon FIRE Tip Sheets or other information provided by FIRE. 

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FIRE Tip Sheets are meant to open a dialogue in the public interest. To help us improve them, please email info@firenewsroom.org, subject line "Tip Sheet feedback." To query or clarify any element of Tip Sheet for use in freelance investigative reporting, please follow instructions at Legal Consultancy.

FIRE Tip Sheets are made possible by support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies.

© Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors, 2022