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Tampa Bay Times wins investigative reporting Pulitzer Prize for 'Poisoned' series about Tampa lead smelter

Tampa Bay Times reporters Corey G. Johnson, Rebecca Woolington and Eli Murray have won the Pulitzer Prize in the investigative reporting category for exposing dangers at a Tampa factory, the state’s only lead smelter. The series, “Poisoned,” prompted widespread action.

This is the 14th Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Times. The winners in journalism, books, drama and music were announced at Columbia University in New York on Monday. It’s also the second consecutive year that a local Times investigation has won journalism’s top prize. 

Johnson, Woolington and Murray spent the better part of two years investigating Gopher Resource, which operates a factory in East Tampa that recycles car batteries, melts the lead and forges new blocks of the metal. 

The reporters detailed the exposure to the neurotoxin endured by Gopher’s workers, most of whom were Black or immigrants. Johnson, Woolington and Murray also showed that the plant had contaminated the community. All three reporters even became certified lead inspectors during the course of their investigation.

Until the Times series appeared, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration hadn’t sent inspectors to the factory in five years. Afterward, federal and county regulators spent months inspecting the plant, confirming the Times’ findings and issuing 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.”