Wallace Roberts, 1941-2018
One investigation resurrected, another defended
This summer marked FIRE’s 15th anniversary and coincided with a celebration over the release of three FIRE-supported stories in two months.
To mark the occasion, I would like to dedicate this announcement to two FIRE-assisted journalists—one who is no longer with us, another who must remain anonymous.
The first journalist, Wallace Roberts, a veteran social-justice reporter and researcher in his 70s, was nearing completion of a data-driven investigation of nursing-home care when he became ill and died in 2018.
Two years later, on a promise to the deceased's family, FIRE found another reporter, the talented young Jared Whitlock, to pick up the threads of Roberts' story. Whitlock reported it out with a new angle, gained FIRE's help to secure indemnification, and published the story this year in Boston Globe’s Stat News.
The second journalist, whose identity is being protected at the request of the legal team of a sensitive investigation, came to FIRE for liability protections, which the outlet cooperatively adopted—just in time.
The subject of the story threatened to sue even before the story appeared. After the story appeared, the subject filed a defamation suit presenting no evidence to disprove any allegations in the story. The journalist, now fully protected, is fearlessly helping the outlet fend off the lawsuit—and to continue reporting the story.
We are pleased to announce that this capacity has just expanded: A series of liability Tip Sheets will now extend expert guidance to the field at large, far beyond the journalists we can serve individually. Look for an announcement next week.
Freelance investigative reporting is unquestionably the least supported sector of public-interest journalism. But FIRE has always fought for these agents of accountability. Along with their newsrooms and editors, they are the cornerstone of democracy.
We look forward to announcing the Tip Sheets next week.
Laird Townsend, FIRE Director