Investigative Reporting

Tampa Bay Times reporters win Pulitzer Prize for ‘Poisoned’ series

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The Tampa Bay Times today won the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s most prestigious award. This is the Times’ 14th Pulitzer Prize.

The 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting was awarded to reporters Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray for “Poisoned,” an investigation into Florida’s only lead smelter, which endangered its employees and polluted the surrounding community.

Published in 2021, the series exposed dangerous practices at Gopher Resource, a company that removes lead from old car batteries, melts it and forges new blocks of the metal. The plant employs mostly minority and immigrant workers, who were exposed to high levels of lead. Many developed serious ailments. Some workers inadvertently tracked lead dust home to their children, at least 16 of whom tested positive for exposure. Lead also polluted the neighborhood surrounding the plant. Federal health safety officials, meanwhile, had not inspected the plant in five years. Following the Times’ stories, federal and county regulators confirmed the journalists’ findings and levied more than $800,000 in fines.

“We are enormously proud of our team for their relentless reporting that sparked decisive change making conditions safer for workers and the community,” said Times Editor and Vice President Mark Katches. “Through their remarkable and meticulous efforts, Corey, Rebecca and Eli uncovered serious problems that would not have surfaced any other way. Their journalism stands as a testament to the importance of a vital local newsroom like the Times.” 

The award marks the third time the Times has won the Pulitzer Prize in the Investigative Reporting category. It is also the second consecutive year that a local Times investigation has won journalism’s top prize.

“We do this difficult work to make a difference here at home, but it’s thrilling that our peers judge it among the finest journalism in America,” said Paul Tash, the Times chairman.

“Poisoned” was completed with support from PBS FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which provided funding and consultation. To read the series, and all associated coverage, visit www.tampabay.com/poisoned.

About the Tampa Bay Times:

The Tampa Bay Times is widely considered one of the Top Ten newspapers in America and has won 14 Pulitzer Prizes. It is Florida’s largest newspaper and publishes tampabay.com — Tampa Bay’s largest local news website. Additionally, the company publishes the free weekly tbt*Weekend, an edition of the Tampa Bay Times, and Bay magazine.

Times’ history of Pulitzer Prizes:

2022: Investigative Reporting – Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray for uncovering how lax safety procedures at Florida’s only lead smeltering plant endangered its employees, their families and the surrounding community.

2021: Local Reporting – Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi for their work in exposing how the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office used computer modeling to identify and closely monitor people believed to be potential criminals.

2016: Local Reporting – Michael LaForgia, Cara Fitzpatrick and Lisa Gartner for their work in exposing how Pinellas County school leaders withheld promised funding and support from five predominantly black schools creating Failure Factories.

2016: Investigative Reporting – Leonora LaPeter Anton and Anthony Cormier of the Times and Michael Braga of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for Insane, Invisible, In Danger. The reporters used thousands of pages of records and pieced together the first comprehensive database of violence and injury at Florida’s state mental hospitals that showed how violence and death got worse after state officials cut funding to the hospitals by $100 million.

2014: Local Reporting – Will Hobson and Michael LaForgia for prompting swift reform of the Hillsborough County’s Homeless Recovery program after exposing the unsafe living conditions provided to the homeless.

2013: Editorial Writing – Tim Nickens and Dan Ruth for helping reverse the decision to end fluoridation of water in Pinellas County.

2009: National Reporting – the Times staff for PolitiFact, its fact-checking initiative to help voters sort out the truth in politics during the 2008 presidential campaign.

2009: Feature Writing – Lane DeGregory for her story about the discovery of a feral child shut off from the world until she was discovered and adopted by a supportive family.

1998: Feature Writing – Thomas French for his detailed and compassionate narrative portrait of a mother and two daughters slain on a Florida vacation, and the three-year investigation into their murders.

1995: Editorial Writing – Jeffrey Good for his editorial campaign urging reform of Florida’s probate system for settling estates.

1991: Feature Writing – Sheryl James for a compelling series about a mother who abandoned her newborn child and how it affected her life and those of others.

1985: Investigative Reporting – Lucy Morgan and Jack Reed for thorough reporting on Pasco County Sheriff John Short, which revealed his department’s corruption and led to his removal from office by voters.

1980: National Reporting – Bette Orsini and Charles Stafford for an investigation of the Church of Scientology.

1964: Meritorious Public Service – The Times and writer Martin Waldron for coverage of the Florida Turnpike Authority and its reckless expenditure of public money.

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