A team of Tampa Bay Times journalists who traced the decline of five schools in St. Petersburg's black neighborhoods were among the winners Thursday of the IRE Medal, the highest honor handed out by Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Judges praised "Failure Factories" reporters Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner, Michael LaForgia and Nathaniel Lash for "deep reporting, clear writing and detailed data analysis."
"Reforms are now under way because of the impressive commitment by the newspaper to right an alarming wrong," they wrote.
The series traced the fallout of the Pinellas County School Board's decision to abandon integration in 2007. It detailed rampant violence, chronic teacher turnover and soaring failure rates at five schools that became overwhelmingly poor and black in the years that followed.
IRE awarded three gold medals this year. Also honored were the Associated Press for its reporting on slave conditions in Southeast Asia, and ProPublica and NPR for their joint investigation of declining workers compensation programs nationwide.
The Times was separately named a finalist in its size category for "Insane. Invisible. In danger." That series, reported in partnership with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, exposed how state officials made huge budget cuts to state mental hospitals, then stood by as violence ran out of control.