The Tampa Bay Times won its 13th Pulitzer Prize Friday, nabbing the top honor for local reporting on a year-long investigation into the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office’s use of computer modeling to identify future potential crime suspects.
The series, “Targeted,” was written and researched by Times reporters Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi.
The 2020 series exposed Pasco’s reliance on what’s known as intelligence-led policing, a controversial practice in which the agency closely monitored 1,000 people, including children, identified as high risk for breaking laws.
McGrory and Bedi’s reporting uncovered details about how the local school district shared information with law enforcement about students who performed poorly in school or were victims of abuse.
That information often put the children on the Sheriff’s list of potential criminals, subjecting them to repeated visits from deputies that many considered harassment.
“What Kathleen and Neil unearthed in Pasco County has had a profound impact on the community,” said Times Executive Director Mark Katches. “This is what the best investigative journalism can do and why it is so essential.”
It’s the third time the paper has won a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and is the only news organization to have earned the award that many times.
“We aim to keep our standards high and our focus on Tampa Bay,” said Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. “It’s wonderful affirmation when our efforts are recognized with the prize that sets the gold standard for journalism.”
The Times has a long history of winning Pulitzer Prizes. Since 1964 the paper has been recognized in various categories 13 times. In 2016, the Times also won the award in the local reporting category for its “Failure Factories” series that uncovered withheld funding and support for five predominantly Black schools in Pinellas County.
Also, in 2016 the paper, with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, was recognized in the investigative reporting category for “Insane. Invisible. In Danger.” an expose highlighting violence and injury at Florida’s state mental hospitals.
The paper’s first award in the local reporting came in 2014 for the Times’ reporting that prompted reform within Hillsborough County’s Homeless Recovery program.
Its first Pulitzer honor came in 1964 in the meritorious public service category for reporting on the Florida Turnpike Authority and its reckless spending of public funds.