Marisa Peñaloza

Marisa Peñaloza is a senior producer on NPR's National Desk. Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as weekend shows. Her work has covered a wide array of topics — from breaking news to feature stories, as well as investigative reports.

Although Peñaloza is a staff member on the National Desk, she occasionally travels overseas on assignment. Last year she traveled to Guatemala to report on parents separated from their children at the U.S. border and to Honduras to cover the genesis of the migrant caravans. She traveled to Brussels right after the terrorist attack in March of 2016 and to Haiti soon after the 2010 earthquake hit, and she went back several times to follow the humanitarian organizations working on the island nation. She's covered education in Peru and in Ecuador, a dengue outbreak in El Salvador, the Madrid train bombings in Spain, as well as the South East Asia Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Her past productions include coverage of the 2018-2019 government shutdown; the opioid epidemic in communities of color; Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Houston; the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 2014; the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013; and the Boston Marathon bombings also in 2013. In 2012 she produced a series on infertility, "Making Babies: 21st Century Families" — the stories explored the options parents have to create families. Peñaloza was one of the first NPR staff members to arrive on the Virginia Tech campus to cover the shootings in 2007. She was on assignment in Houston waiting for Hurricane Ike to make landfall in September 2008, and she produced coverage of New Orleans recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Peñaloza covered the Elian Gonzalez custody battle from Miami, protests outside the Navy site on the Island of Viequez in Puerto Rico, and the aftermath of the crash of the American Airlines flight 587 in New York. She also contributed to NPR's Sept. 11 coverage.

For two consecutive years, Peñaloza was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, which celebrates "excellence in investigative journalism on a wide spectrum of social justice issues." In 2015 she was honored with the Distinguished Journalism Award for radio for her series on clemency and sentencing reform, "Boxed In: When The Punishment No Longer Fits The Crime." Peñaloza was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy 2014 Award for a series on the increasing number of veterans who are getting out of the service with an "other than honorable" discharge. She was also honored with a Gracie Award in 2014 for a series on female veterans, "Women Combat Veterans: Life After War." She won the 2011 National Headliner Award in investigative reporting and the Grand Award for a series of stories looking at the role of confidential informants — people who pose as criminals so they can provide information to federal law enforcement, except sometimes these informants are criminals themselves.

In 2009, Peñaloza was honored with several awards for "Dirty Money," an enterprising four-part series of stories that examined law enforcement's pursuit of suspected drug money, which they can confiscate without filing charges against the person carrying it. Local police and sheriffs get to keep a portion of the cash. The awards for "Dirty Money" include the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award in the investigative reporting category; the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Foundation Award; and the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award in the "best website" category.

In 2008, Peñaloza was honored by the Education Writers Association with its "National Award for Education Reporting" for a year-long NPR on-air and online series following a Baltimore-area high school's efforts to improve student achievement. She won the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems in 2007 for "The Forgotten Drug Wars," a five-part series of stories that examined the U.S.'s gains and losses since the war on drugs was launched more than 30 years ago.

Peñaloza made the leap from television to radio in 1997, when she joined NPR's National Desk. Before joining NPR, she was a freelance writer for the Fox affiliate and an editorial assistant at the local NBC station in Washington, DC. She graduated from George Washington University.

Wildfires are ravaging large swaths of the West in the middle of the wine grape harvest, sending hazardous smoke through picturesque vineyards.

It's forcing many agricultural workers to make a stark choice: Should they prioritize their health, or earn badly needed money?

"The truth is that I have to work," says Maricela, 48, who is a team leader at a vineyard near Medford in southern Oregon. There are multiple fires blazing close to the town.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Nalvany plans to return to Russia, according to his spokesperson. He was recently poisoned with a nerve agent and has been undergoing treatment at a German hospital for more than three weeks.

"It's puzzling to me why anyone should think otherwise," Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh tweeted.

Wildfires are destroying homes and communities on the West Coast — and they are also creating some of the world's worst air pollution in a region usually known for its clean living and stunning views. The fires and massive plumes of smoke are also affecting the fight to control COVID-19.

Agi Hajduczki, a research scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Infectious Diseases, opens a large freezer and takes out boxes of DNA. She is part of a team making a COVID-19 vaccine.

Hajduczki places a small, clear plastic tray under a piece of white paper on the table of her lab. The tray is dimpled. Pale yellow fluid can be seen under the dozens of dimples.

Some of the dimples are clearly more yellow than others.

Anti-Black racism had always bothered John Collins, but he'd never personally done anything about it.

That changed after police killed George Floyd in May.

Stuck at home and furloughed from work because of the pandemic, Collins had time to watch coverage of the protests Floyd's death had set off and to reflect on the nation's history of racial injustice.

It was late at night when two teenage cousins from Honduras arrived in a hotel parking lot somewhere in the U.S., escorted by armed men in civilian clothes.

The young men crossed the border illegally into Texas last month and turned themselves in to the Border Patrol. After spending the night in detention, they say they were loaded into a van by the men who were not in uniforms and driven three hours to the hotel.

When Le Hoang Nguyen put up a bright yellow billboard in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Houston, the pushback from his community, "was immediate, it was vicious, my Facebook wall filled up with just hate speech."

Nguyen's original idea for the billboard was to thank essential workers for their work during the pandemic, but when George Floyd was killed, he felt strongly about supporting BLM.

The insurance business owner knew that some people wouldn't like the message, but he thought people would respectfully agree to disagree.

Two crises collided this spring in Michigan. The state was already under a coronavirus lockdown when a catastrophic storm hit and a pair of dams failed, flooding the city of Midland.

The local hospital, MidMichigan Medical Center — Midland, hired a disaster recovery company to clean up the mess, including a water-logged basement and morgue. More than 100 workers — many of them recent immigrants — were brought from as far away as Texas and Florida. Bellaliz Gonzalez was one of them.

Corporate executives and sports officials are joining a growing number of elected officials who want to recognize Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery, as an official U.S. holiday. The movement is being fueled by the Black Lives Matter protests demanding reforms following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.

Juneteenth, which is on June 19, has long been an important holiday in the African American community, a time for celebration rather than mourning and remembrance.

California's first-of-its-kind effort to get cash aid into the hands of undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus got off to a bumpy start over the past week.

Across the state, tens of thousands of immigrants calling to apply encountered busy signals, crashed phone lines and frustration.

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