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Three journalists receive IRE's 2023 Freelance Fellowship

IRE is pleased to announce that Sarah Sax, Eli Cahan and Leonora LaPeter Anton are the recipients of our 2023 Freelance Fellowships. With IRE’s support, these independent journalists will pursue projects investigating third-party regulators, families punished over cannabis, and reform school students’ path to death row.

Sarah Sax is an award-winning freelance journalist, covering the climate crisis and the way environmental change is reworking the systems we live in. She covers labor, transnational trade and commodities, gender, Indigenous rights and the criminal legal system — often with a strong justice and accountability lens. Her work has been honored with a Front Page Award, an American Association for Journalists and Authors Award and has been recognized by the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her project will be investigating how third-party certifiers systematically overlook human rights, labor, building and environmental violations in their work, leading to negative outcomes for humans, consumers and the environment.

Eli Cahan, M.D., M.S., is an award-winning investigative journalist covering the intersection of child welfare and social justice. His written work has been featured in The Washington Post, LA Times, Rolling Stone, and USA Today, among other publications. His multimedia work has appeared on TV via ABC and radio via NPR. Cahan’s reporting has won awards from the National Press Club, the News Leaders Association and elsewhere. He has received reporting fellowships from the McGraw Center, the National Press Foundation, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, among others; he has also been a grantee of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Pulitzer Center and elsewhere. Cahan is also a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. His project will investigate how child protective services is punishing parents for cannabis use and harming vulnerable families in the U.S.

Leonora LaPeter Anton is a freelance writer focused on investigative and narrative stories. She wrote for 36 years at five southeastern U.S. newspapers, including more than two decades at the Tampa Bay Times. She was part of a team that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting for a series about violent conditions inside Florida's psychiatric hospitals. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her project will investigate documenting the number of boys sent to the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, who later went on to become sexual predators and murderers. At least 33 of them have been sent to death row for murder.

The generosity of an anonymous donor has allowed IRE to award fellowships to support freelance journalism for the last 15 years. The fellowships give independent journalists a financial boost to pursue investigative work. New this year is a free two-hour consultancy provided by the Freelance Investigative Reporters and Editors (FIRE) to help each fellow with their projects.

If you’d like to donate to the Freelance Fellowship fund, please make a donation online and designate "Freelance Fellowship" in the form.

About the award:

IRE Freelance Fellowships are awarded annually to journalists who make their living primarily as freelance/independent journalists. Applications are reviewed by experienced freelance journalists. Proposals are judged in part on the breadth, significance, and potential impact of the investigative project. At the request of the donor, proposals dealing with whistleblowers, business ethics and/or privacy issues will receive priority; projects involving other topics will be given serious consideration by the committee as well. The freelance projects are to be published or aired primarily in U.S. outlets.

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