Thomas French

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For similarly named people, see Tom French (disambiguation).

Thomas French (born January 3, 1958) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist who worked for the St. Petersburg Times (currently the Tampa Bay Times) for 27 years. After his retirement from the Times, he turned to teaching and occupies the Riley Endowed Chair in Journalism at Indiana University School of Journalism[1][2] and teaches in Goucher College's creative nonfiction MFA program.[3]

Personal details[edit]

Thomas French was born in 1958 to Hans and Katherine (née Darst) French in Columbus, Ohio and was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana.[4][5] While at Indiana University, he was the editor-in-chief of the Indiana Daily Student, the recipient of a Poynter scholarship, the winner of the Hearst Competition for Feature Writing, and graduated in 1980.[2][5] His first marriage was to Linda F. French.[5] French has two sons Nathaniel and Samuel.[5] He is currently married to Kelley Benham.[6] Benham documented the birth of their daughter Juniper, who was born an extreme preemie in the Tampa Bay Times.[7]


Thomas French's career with the St. Petersburg Times spanned 27 years between 1981 to 2008. He is known for feature writing but he started off on the police and courts beats, as well as general assignments.[1][4][5]

Notable works of journalism[edit]

In 1998, the Times won its sixth Pulitzer Prize. French won for Feature Writing for his piece “Angels and Demons,” the story of the murders of Jo, Michelle and Christe Rogers and the eventual capture of the murderer, Oba Chandler.[1][2]

French wrote the series "South of Heaven," later expanded into a book of narrative nonfiction, about students at the end of the 1980s at Largo High School with the cooperation of LHS journalism teacher Jan Amburgy.[1][2]

He collaborated on "13", a mini-series that ran in the St. Petersburg Times about middle schoolers at Booker T. Washington Middle Magnet School for International Studies in Tampa.

His piece "The Exorcist in Love" is an in-depth investigation into the life and work of Laura Knight (now Laura Knight-Jadczyk).[8]

According to Washington Post reporter Anne Hull, French's work has set the standard for a generation of reporters:

He wrote a seminal piece of journalism called 'A Cry In The Night' that dominated our craft for a long time and made a model for the rest of us to follow," Hull said. "He's been my teacher since the day I met him. IU will soon get a glimpse of his passion and ferocious belief that journalism should be fair and truthful but also raucous, subversive, emotional and daring.[2]

His 2010 book about Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida is called "Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives."[1][2][6]


In 1992, Thomas French won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for his local reporting on a high school.[5][9]

In 1998, French won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.[1][2]

In 2015, French was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame.[4]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Metz, Perry (November 14, 2014). "Journalist Thomas French". Indiana Public Media. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Indiana University School of Journalism (August 28, 2008). "Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas French returning to teach at the IU School of Journalism". IU News Room. Retrieved 2015-06-27. 
  3. ^ "Goucher College: Faculty...". Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "7 selected for Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame". Evansville Courier & Press. June 26, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Brennan, Elizabeth A.; Clarage, Elizabeth C. (1999). Who's who of Pulitzer Prize Winners. The Oryx Press. p. 221-222. 
  6. ^ a b Mudge, Alden (July 2010). "THOMAS FRENCH: It's all happening at the zoo". BookPage. 
  7. ^ "[Weeks 6 Days]". Series 11. Episode 6. Radio Lab.  Missing or empty |title= (help);
  8. ^ Thomas French. "The Exorcist in Love". St Petersburg Times. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  9. ^ "Past Winners : 1992". Livingston Awards for Young Journalists.