Tampa Bay Times wins 14th Pulitzer Prize for ‘Poisoned’ series

tampa bay times building
The investigation found a Florida smelting company had endangered its employees and polluted the surrounding community.

The Tampa Bay Times won its 14th Pulitzer Prize Monday for a series exposing hazardous conditions at Florida’s only lead smelting plant.

Times’ reporters Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray received the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for their “Poisoned” series. The series, released in 2021, explored the impact of Gopher Resource, a company that removes lead from old car batteries, melts it and forges new blocks of the metal. The investigation found the company endangered its employees and polluted the surrounding community.

“We are enormously proud of our team for their relentless reporting that sparked decisive change making conditions safer for workers and the community,” Times Editor and Vice President Mark Katches said in a statement. “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 plant, which employs primarily minority and immigrant workers, exposed employees to high levels of lead, the investigation found. Many developed serious ailments and some workers inadvertently tracked lead dust home to their children, at least 16 of whom tested positive for exposure.

The investigation also found that lead from the plant also polluted the surrounding neighborhood. Federal health safety officials, meanwhile, had not inspected the plant in five years.

After the Times released the series, federal and county regulators confirmed the journalists’ findings and levied more than $800,000 in fines.

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. Last year, Times’ reporters Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi won a Pulitzer Prize in local reporting.

“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, Times chair.

The series “Poisoned” was completed with support from PBS FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Initiative, which provided funding and consultation, according to the Times.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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