Without the determination of investigative reporters out in the field digging up facts and getting their hands dirty uncovering the stories some may not want told, the balancing power of the forth estate would be non-existent. The late conscientious philanthropist Philip Stern realized this when he created the Fund for Investigative Journalism in 1969 and granted reporter Seymour Hersh the money he needed to break the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. The fund has gone on to award more than $1.5 million in grants to freelance reporters, authors, and small publications over the last three decades, recently announcing a new round of $42,000 in grants to ten vital investigative projects.
The grants that the FIJ provides are backed by some of the most important institutions in the field, including The Gannett Foundation, The Herb Block Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation (See Ethics and Excellence in Journalism: Grants for Journalism), and many others (along with individual donors). The funds that FIJ grants are specifically for individual reporters and documentary photographers and filmmakers investigating instances of racism, poverty, corruption, and "abuse of power in the public and private sectors." The money is given to "provide the resources necessary to travel to interview sources and research documentary evidence, and for other out-of-pocket expenses."
The FIJ knows how important even a small amount can be to a reporter in the field doing the hard work. Its grants average around $5,000 a piece, but that can make all the difference for an individual journalist who needs the support. The fund also explicitly encourages proposals geared towards "ethnic media." Their grant process is very straight-forward and can all be done online.
Its board is made up of a strongly respectable group from places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Human Rights Watch, USA Today, and an assortment of universities. Take a look at past grantees' work, which includes winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Magazine Award, MacArthur Award, and many, many others. Grants are given three to four times a year and all deadlines are updated on the online form. You can also contact the fund here with any questions.
In this world of increasingly consolidated media outlets, conflicts of interest can become an obstacle course in the newsroom. It's more important than ever to have independent funding for those uncovering abuses of power and other acts of wrongdoing and the FIJ is amazingly consistent in its support.