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Freelance Fellowship

Provides cash awards to assist independent journalists with investigative projects.


Created in 2008, the fellowships are awarded for non-fiction project proposals which demonstrate impact, breadth and significance. Proposals for books, documentaries, cable series and other long-form projects are eligible. We also accept proposals for shorter term work such as video or audio projects for broadcast or online sites, articles for newspapers, magazines, online sites and niche news publications, among others. Proposals that deal with whistleblowers, business ethics or privacy issues will be given priority. It is intended to support work that will be primarily be published or broadcast in the U.S. and in outlets where the primary audience will be at least a part of the American public.

Application Closed

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Who is eligible?

Journalists who make their living primarily as freelancers and need assistance in conducting investigative projects. Freelance journalists who will publish the work primarily in the U.S. and in outlets where the primary audience will be at least a part of the American public.

What does the fellowship provide?

  • Long-term project – Up to $4,000 and a one-year IRE membership
  • Short-term project – Up to $2,000 and a one-year IRE membership

Required application materials:

  • Three clips showcasing investigative work
  • Explain your freelance status in as much detail as necessary for the selection committee to determine your eligibility
  • Describe your project.
    • How do you plan to spend the money if you receive one of the IRE freelance fellowships?
    • If your project requires additional funding, how do you plan to raise the rest of the funding necessary to complete your project?
    • Where do you hope to publish or air the project?
    • Have you discussed publication with any specific outlets? If so, please summarize the conversations.
      • If you have already signed a contract with a publisher or broadcast outlet, please provide specifics.
    • If you receive one of the fellowships, when do you expect to deliver the project to a potential publisher or broadcast outlet?


  • Proposals which demonstrate impact, breadth and significance
  • Proposals that deal with whistleblowers, business ethics or privacy issues will be given priority
  • Intended to support work that will be primarily be published in the U.S. and in outlets where the primary audience will be at least a part of the American public

How to donate to the Freelance Fellowship

Every donation made to support our Freelance Fellowship program will be matched up to a total of $15,000, thanks to a generous donation from the donor who established the fund.

Click here to make a secure credit card donation. Please put “Freelance Fellowship” in the line about donating to a specific fund.

Past & Present Winners

2023 Fellows

Sarah Sax is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She covers the climate crisis and the way environmental change is reworking the systems we live in. Her work has been recognized by the National Association of Science Writers and the Society of Environmental Journalists. Her project will investigate how third-party certifiers systematically overlook human rights, labor, building and environmental violations in their work.

Eli Cahan, M.D., M.S., is an investigative journalist and pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.  He covers the intersection of child welfare and social justice, and has been published in featured in The Washington Post, LA Times, Rolling Stone and USA Today. 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 was at the Tampa Bay Times for more than two decades, and was part of a team that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for a series about violent conditions inside Florida's psychiatric hospitals. Her project will investigate the number of boys sent to the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.

2022 Fellows

Britta Lokting is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She's written for The New York Times, The Washington Post Magazine, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Her project will investigate discrimination against parents with cognitive disabilities.

Jonathan Moens is a freelance science and investigative journalist based in Paris. He writes about brain sciences, conservation, the climate crisis and more, and has been published in various outlets, including National Geographic, The New York Times, and Undark. His project will investigate the rise of technology used to help police investigate crimes.

Gregor Stuart Hunter is a freelance reporter based in Taipei City, Taiwan. He has extensive experience covering business, politics and tech for The Guardian, Nikkei Asia and Fortune. He spent seven years in Hong Kong as a staff reporter at Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal, and three years in Abu Dhabi with The National newspaper. He is a CFA Charterholder, a Python programmer and a speaker of Chinese and Spanish. His project will investigate China’s offshore wealth.

2021 Fellows

Jordan Gass-Poore is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her project will investigate companies in New Jersey who have avoided paying the government millions of dollars in Superfund clean-up costs and how communities impacted by these hazardous waste sites illustrate a broader environmental justice impact. 

David Nickerson is a freelance journalist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  His project will investigate how Federal regulators, while failing to adopt a heat-protection standard, have overlooked rogue employers and endangered workers of color in particular. 

Sadia Rafiquddin is a freelance reporter based in Toronto, Canada. Her project will investigate how a health care monopoly in Hernando County, Florida, is risking elderly patients care. 

2020 Fellows

Jared Whitlock is a freelance journalist based in Encinitas, California. His project will investigate regulatory holes in the assisted living and nursing home industries. 

Mara Kardas-Nelson is a UC Berkeley-based freelance journalist. Her project will investigate how American and European banks and investment funds are making money off tiny loans given to the world’s poor.

Austyn Gaffney is a freelance reporter based in Louisville, Kentucky. Her project investigates how state and federal regulatory agencies and private companies failed to prioritize worker safety in East Tennessee's Kingston coal ash disaster.

Work by the Winners

Jordan Gass-Poore created, hosted, reported, wrote, produced and edited NJ Spotlight News' first podcast series, "Hazard NJ," which looks at the impacts of climate change on hazardous Superfund sites in New Jersey. All of the episode scripts are reported and written by Gass-Poore. The project won the Corporation for New Jersey Local Media's New Jersey Journalism Impact Award for Local Reporting.
Listen online
Mara Kardas-Nelson wrote "We Are Not Able to Live in the Sky," which explores the promises and perils of microfinance. The book follows several women in Sierra Leone, West Africa as they navigate the small loans and considers the role of Western funders in shaping the industry as it has shifted from non-profit to for-profit. Publishers Weekly said it reveals "how starry-eyed American ‘activists, feminists, and funders... create[d] the conditions’ for today’s global predatory lending problems."
more info
“Texas Workers Are Dying In The Summer Heat, And Companies Aren’t Being Held Accountable”
Columbia Journalism Investigations & The Texas Newsroom
by David Nickerson, Julia Shipley, Stella M. Chavez & Sara Ernst
READ online
“How the Kingston coal ash spill unearthed a nuclear nightmare”
Grist and The Daily Yonder
by Austyn Gaffney
READ online
“DNA Testing Is Unearthing Local Fertility Fraud Cases”
Voice of San Diego
by Jared Whitlock
READ online
“Death of a nursing home”
The Crisis Magazine
by Wallace Roberts
READ online
“The fight to preserve a model public housing project”
Chicago Reader
by Maya Dukmasova
READ online
“Access Denied:
The Digital Crisis in Prisons"
by Adam Wisnieski
READ online
“House of Cards”
New York Post
by Catherine Curan
READ online
“Finding Fernanda”
by Erin Siegal
READ online
“Ghosts of the Rio Grande”
The American Prospect
by Brendan Borrell
READ online
109 Lee Hills Hall, Missouri School of Journalism   |   221 S. Eighth St., Columbia, MO 65201   |   573-882-2042   |   |   Privacy Policy
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