Post and Courier special assignments reporter Tony Bartelme is the 2012 winner of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award for non-deadline reporting.

The society made the announcement Tuesday honoring Bartelme for his series “Storm of Money,” which detailed how and why the insurance industry bills South Carolina homeowners among the highest insurance rates in the country.

The national awards recognize “exceptional professional journalism produced in 2012.”

Bartelme received the award in the 50,001 to 100,000 circulation category. He and “Storm of Money” were selected as finalists last week for the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.

Sigma Delta Chi was founded in 1909 “to promote the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the press.”

Bartelme’s “Storm of Money” series is a mix of narratives and data that exposed how insurance companies use fear, technology and political muscle to shortchange consumers. He revealed how insurance companies use “black box” computer programs to control the flow of billions of dollars in rates and claims with little or no scrutiny from government regulators.

Bartelme’s work exploded a myth that insurers have long used to justify rate hikes — that South Carolina is a catastrophe magnet.

Post and Courier Executive Editor Mitch Pugh said Bartelme’s series “illustrates the newspaper’s dedication to public service through journalism that makes a difference for readers.”

In addition to the stories, the newspaper developed new online search tools to help consumers better compare home insurance rates, something other state insurance departments have on their websites but South Carolina lacks.

A full list of the winners is available at spj.org.