Investigative Breakthroughs

Progress in a pivotal year

Ample anecdotal evidence shows that freelance reporters are shunning public-interest investigations—for safer feature stories or other work entirely—in no small part because publishers and broadcasters won’t promise to accept liability for defamation lawsuits.

The attrition is understandable: No sole proprietor freelancers can afford to expose themselves to the threat of baseless litigation designed to intimidate and punish the media.

But it’s avoidable. Outlets can promise to take responsibility for the stories they commission. It’s pointless not to.

To reverse the attrition, the public needs far more of the kind of advances that FIRE accomplished this year with support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies

  • The success of two major grant-funded stories, a third in pre-publication review 

  • Breakthroughs in five more Legal Consultancy cases, bringing the total of negotiated protections for freelancers to 15 of 17 cases

  • Five more published pieces, bringing the total to 11 story releases since 2021  

  • More than 70 requests for the FIRE Contract Template  

  • The release of an educational tool that could change the way freelance investigative reporting is done—the FIRE Tip Sheets on liability

With these new tools and resources, FIRE not only protects individual freelance investigations, but also promotes better conditions to produce them, fulfilling a critical potential in the public interest.