Strengthening Investigations

Newmark gift for freelance legal protection

A $75,000 gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies will foster contract-related legal assistance and education.

Today Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE) is pleased to announce a generous gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to strengthen the ability of freelance reporters to produce investigations in the public-interest.

The gift, a $75,000 grant for FIRE’s contract-related legal assistance, significantly bolsters FIRE’s role as a service bureau for freelance investigative reporters, primarily by enabling freelancer access to First Amendment attorneys for pro bono counsel on rights, indemnification, insurance, and other issues.

This legal service, the only program of its kind that we know of, helps to demystify contract provisions and media insurance so reporters can protect themselves enough to take on accountability stories, something the new service has already enabled.

According to anecdotal evidence, publishers and broadcasters are increasingly shifting legal exposure onto freelancers, hindering their ability to pursue sensitive investigations. The grant seeks to reverse that trend.

“A trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy,” Newmark said. “We rely on that to know how to protect our country, and we need to protect journalists as they protect us.”

Newmark, founder of craigslist, has contributed nearly $200 million to efforts aimed at supporting trustworthy journalism, combating disinformation, and countering online harassment. His support for journalism is a central focus of a diverse network of grantees he has funded through Craig Newmark Philanthropies (

“We need to protect journalists as they protect us.”

The Newmark grant enables FIRE not only to expand the contract-based legal service, but also to translate advice into tipsheets, webinars, and other educational material and events—for reporters, publishers, and broadcasters alike.

The activity, in turn, advances FIRE’s wider groundbreaking legal-protection initiative, which also includes an innovative boilerplate contract to protect freelance reporters; and a policy of supporting only stories for which the outlet protects the reporters.

FIRE, operating in various forms since 2007, develops the capacity of freelance investigative journalists from diverse backgrounds to produce investigations in the public interest—historically by providing grants and editorial services, now also by key legal education for the field.

“Craig Newmark Philanthropies is shoring up one of journalism’s most vulnerable constituencies, and one of the most important,” said FIRE director Laird Townsend. “This grant will foster confidence to propose and complete sensitive investigations—exactly the stories the public needs the most, and the stories that need the most protection. FIRE is deeply grateful for the support.”

Applications are open until April 15 for the contract related legal assistance, and on an ongoing basis for grants and reporting services.