Ida B. Wells Fellowship FAQ

May I apply if I am currently a student or intern? Yes, although the program is designed for reporters who have professional reporting experience and are hoping to make the jump into investigative work.

May I apply if I have a staff job as a reporter? Yes, but only with the support of your newsroom. If your proposal is selected to move past round one, you will be asked to submit a letter of support from your editor saying that your newsroom agrees to co-publish your investigation, and that you will be given time throughout the year to work on it.

Do I have to be U.S. citizen or a U.S. resident to apply? No. But since our goal is to diversify the investigative reporting landscape in the United States, it’s important that you intend to have a career working primarily in the U.S. media.

How many years of experience is too many? There’s no limit. If you’ve been a journalist for many years but want to pivot and become an investigative reporter, you are encouraged to apply.

If I have personal obligations in early June and could not attend the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference, may I still apply? In 2021 the IRE conference will be virtual, so the travel requirement does not apply. However, we would encourage all applicants to clear their schedules as much as possible to attend the virtual conference, held June 14-18.

May I apply if I am not a person of color? Yes. We simply need you to tell us a little bit about yourself and how your presence would contribute to the diversification of investigative journalism.

What makes a story “investigative”? By investigative we mean enterprise reporting — digging up stories other reporters haven't found yet or significantly advancing stories that have been covered, but not in depth. These are stories that go beyond feature reporting by offering up substantial new facts. They document problems and often show who’s responsible, whether a corporation, a government agency, or an elected official.

How much time will it take to produce an investigative work for the fellowship? This is not the kind of story you can produce in a month or two. Most investigations will require extensive phone reporting, reading, and research; some might require a week or more of field reporting; others might require weeks of poring through documents or building databases. An investigative feature for radio or television might run 20 minutes; a print piece often runs to 5,000 words. So it will typically take several months to complete your reporting, several months for writing and editing, and several weeks for fact-checking and a comprehensive legal review. Fellows almost always take a full year, and sometimes more, to finish and publish their investigations.

Will my Type Investigations editor help me place my story? Yes, absolutely. We have an extensive network of journalism partners.

Can I propose an international story? Sure. All we ask is that the story be intended for placement in a U.S. publication.

How can I find an investigative story idea? When looking for investigative story ideas, it’s wise to start by doing an extensive search of the coverage of your topic. Read, view and listen to as many clips as you can. And check out government reports related to your topic. As you read, you’ll start to notice that certain sources recur in each story. Make note of their names. Jot down a list of questions to ask them and call and email them to ask for an interview. Tell them that you’re a reporter who is looking for story ideas and would like to do a background interview in advance of submitting some story ideas to an editor by our application deadline. Sooner or later, these interviews will lead you to a few story ideas.

Can a fellow who is a staff reporter use the resources of their employers? For example if my newsroom has an investigative unit can I use their resources to complete my project? Yes.

Can fellows who are staff reporters work with their employers to generate ideas for the proposal? Yes.

Is Type Investigative interested in local stories published in local outlets? Or should projects have a national focus? We are open to local stories, and we have had lots of success with local stories when they have appeared in local media. However, given the contraction of the news business, local stories tend to be harder to place for freelance applicants. That’s something for every writer to consider as you develop a proposal — is there an audience and an outlet for this idea — and something that Type Investigations editors will consider when evaluating applications.

Do the samples submitted for the application have to be writing samples? Are radio/broadcast pieces acceptable? We accept print, online, and broadcast samples. Applicants who work in Spanish are also eligible (we have the capacity to do Spanish-language projects), though work samples should be translated for the application process.

Can a team of two apply to Ida B. Wells fellowship? No. Each Fellowship slot goes to just one reporter taking on an independent project.

Is it okay to propose more than one investigative story? You may submit more than one story idea, but we prefer to see a single idea that’s well developed and will only select one for the fellowship.