Best Of 2008

BEST JOURNALISTS (PRINT): Lindsay Peterson & Billy Townsend of the Tampa Tribune

One of the enduring legacies of former Gov. Jeb Bush was a hush-hush deal cooked up to have taxpayers buy the rights to pay $491 million for CSX Transportation rail lines in the Lakeland/Orlando area as part of a Central Florida mass transit system. Never mind that the lines were essentially given to CSX by the state decades ago. Never mind that CSX wanted to be indemnified against lawsuits in case trains went off the tracks. Never mind that the deal would move a huge freight yard from Orlando and run the freight traffic through downtown Lakeland. The plan was low-key and largely unknown until Peterson and Townsend began writing about it. Then all hell broke loose. The resulting publicity caused lawmakers to tank the deal, but it comes back again in the 2009 Legislature. Epilogue: The cash-strapped Trib will have to return to the story without Lakeland-based reporter Townsend, who left the paper to take a job outside of journalism.