Helen Santoro

FIRE's legal assistance helped Helen Santoro's pet-industry investigation

AP, 100Reporters, freelancer—the mutual benefit

With new educational guides like the FIRE Tip Sheets linked below, freelancers can better educate themselves to gain liability protections from publishers or broadcasters.

The goal, as always, is to help the reporters realize their potential in the public interest—in this case by gaining full legal protection to confidently pursue investigative stories to everyone's benefit.

FIRE is also stepping up our hands-on program to help the parties accomplish that goal—the Legal Consultancy. We are pleased to announced that the program has brought on a new lawyer and has recently experience another succesful story release.

In the spring, freelancer Helen Santoro approached FIRE with concerns that a contract offered for a sensitive investigation "was not up to snuff." FIRE responded with precise suggestions to shore up her liability provisions.   

Santoro's publisher, our friends at the nonprofit 100Reporters, quickly approved the revised contract.  

As a result, Santoro avoided the anxieties of mortgaging her assets for a story—and 100Reporters was able to publish her in-depth investigation of the pet-food industry last week, and via its Associated Press co-publishing arrangement, bring it to more than 100 publications and broadcasts nationwide. 

"Having FIRE's support was a complete game-changer. It was a huge relief having [FIRE’s suggestions on] the contract,” she said. "Without that... I might not have proceeded at all. There’s a good chance story would not be published yet.” 

By doing the right thing, she said, a responsible publisher like 100Reporters “gets the story, as opposed to losing it [to a competitor]."  

The publisher also gains after the story: “The outlet also gets to keep those good freelancers around," Santoro said. "Good freelancers want good contracts.”  

For the kind of contract changes that made such a difference for Santoro, view this FIRE Tip Sheet. For a better understanding of a smart publisher’s strategy on freelancer liability, see this Tip Sheet co-authored with Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein.  

And for Santoro’s investigation, visit here.  

As always, thank you to Craig Newmark Philanthropies for supporting FIRE's legal assistance to reporters and outlets.

More next time on two other recent releases!