FIRE Contract Principles

Setting the standard for freelance investigations

The FIRE Contract Principles 


We, as funders, supporters, and representatives of media outlets delivering investigative reporting to the public, recognize that public interest investigations are perhaps journalism’s highest calling. From Ida B. Wells to Upton Sinclair, from Edward R. Murrow to today’s investigative journalists, history teaches us that there is no greater force for social change. 
We also recognize that this tradition has come under strain in recent years as many news organizations have reduced—if not eliminated—investigative or enterprise teams. 
At the same time, we recognize:

  • that the urgency to make up some of this loss for the public good has placed freelance reporting in a more important position than ever;    
  • that the public and media outlets benefit when freelance journalists have the indemnity protections they need to deliver sensitive reporting;   
  • that too many freelancers do not receive such protections from media companies and, faced with untenable legal exposure, simply abandon or avoid investigative stories

To encourage the pursuit of sensitive reporting in the vital tradition of investigative journalism, we affirm the following:

  • that, in exchange for accepting a contractual obligation to adhere to the highest industry standards for ethics and professionalism, commissioned freelance investigative journalists should receive liability protection for their work;  
  • that contracts with freelance reporters should include any provisions that encourage and sustain ongoing freelance contributions in the public interest

By our signature, we pledge to uphold these Principles to the greatest extent feasible, and encourage other parties to do the same.  

If your outlet or organization is interested in publicly pledging to uphold these standards, or if you have any questions about these principles, please contact FIRE Director Laird Townsend.