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, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Her work has covered a wide array of topics and she has covered breaking news, produced feature stories as well as investigative reports.

Although Peñaloza's a staff member on the National Desk, she occasionally travels overseas on assignment. She traveled to Haiti soon after the 2010 earthquake hit and she's gone 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 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, the Boston marathon bombings also in 2013. In 2012 she produced a series on infertility - the stories explored the options parents have to create families, "Making Babies: 21st Century 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 Katrina. Peñaloza covered the Elian Gonzalez custody battle from Miami, protests outside the Navy site on the Island of Viequez, in Puerto Rico, the aftermath of the crash of the American Airlines flight 587 in New York. She contributed to NPR's 9/11 coverage.

An award-winning journalist, 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 recently honored with a Gracie Award 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 a five-part series of stories that examined this country's gains and losses since the war on drugs was launched more than thirty years ago, "The Forgotten Drug Wars."

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.

On a muggy Sunday morning in Rockville, Md., the parking lot of the local pet store is organized chaos at its finest. Several hundred people pack the lot looking for a dog to adopt, and they have 50 to choose from. But they'll have to sort through a whole bunch of barking and tail-wagging to do it.

The scene looks like a mix between a fair and speed dating. Volunteers run the check-in table, coordinators walk potential adoptive families through the logistics and people move from dog to dog trying to find a perfect match to take home.

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.

It's a blustery, snowy March day when Michelle Hahn O'Leary offers a tour of Cordova, Alaska, situated on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound.



All this week on MORNING EDITION we've been hearing about veterans we don't usually discuss, people who served in the military and then left with a less than honorable discharge. Even if they saw combat, veterans with bad paper, as it's called, do not get the healthcare or benefits accorded to most vets.



This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish. We're reporting this week on what happens to veterans who leave the service with less than honorable discharges; troops who made big mistakes while still in uniform - used drugs, drove while drunk or worse - and got kicked out of the military. Turns out that discharge is something of a life sentence. These vets often lose access to veterans' health care and other benefits, and it's hard for them to find jobs.

When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly.

"Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.

The "six" was an expected six months of hard labor in the brig. The kick happened at Hartnett's court-martial, and finally woke him up out of the haze.