Laura Sullivan - 2015
Linda Fittante
Laura Sullivan - 2015
Linda Fittante

Laura Sullivan

Correspondent, NPR Investigations

Laura Sullivan is a NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most disadvantaged people.

Sullivan is one of NPR's most decorated journalists, with three Peabody Awards and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons. She joined NPR in 2004 as a correspondent on the National Desk. For six years she covered crime and punishment issues, with reports airing regularly on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other NPR programs before joining NPR's investigations unit.

Sullivan partnered with the PBS series FRONTLINE to produce an hour-long documentary investigating the Business of Disaster in May 2016, which examined who profits when disaster strikes. The film and radio pieces grew out of a series of investigations examining the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Superstorm Sandy. The pieces were honored with her second award from Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press and her third from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Her unflinching series "Native Foster Care," which aired in three parts on All Things Considered in October 2011, examined how lack of knowledge about Native culture and traditions and federal financial funding all influence the decision to remove so many Native-American children from homes in South Dakota. Through more than 150 interviews with state and federal officials, tribal representatives and families from eight South Dakota tribes, plus a review of thousands of records, Sullivan and NPR producers pieced together a narrative of inequality in the foster care system across the state. In addition to her third Peabody, the series also won Sullivan her second Robert F. Kennedy Award.

"Bonding for Profit" – a three-part investigative series that aired on Morning Edition and All Things Considered in 2010 – earned Sullivan her second duPont and Peabody, as well as awards from the Scripps Howard Foundation, Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and the American Bar Association. Working with editor Steve Drummond, Sullivan's stories in this series revealed deep and costly flaws in one of the most common – and commonly misunderstood – elements of the US criminal justice system.

Also in 2011, Sullivan was honored for the second time by Investigative Reporters and Editors for her two part series examining the origins of Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070.

For the three-part series, "36 Years of Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola," she was honored with a 2008 George Foster Peabody Award, a 2008 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and her first Robert F. Kennedy Award.

In 2007, Sullivan exposed the epidemic of rape on Native American reservations, which are committed largely by non-Native men, and examined how tribal and federal authorities have failed to investigate those crimes. In addition to a duPont, this two-part series earned Sullivan a DART Award for outstanding reporting, an Edward R. Murrow and her second Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media.

Her first Gracie was for a three-part series examining of the state of solitary confinement in this country. She was also awarded the 2007 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for this series.

Before coming to NPR, Sullivan was a Washington correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, where she covered the Justice Department, the FBI and terrorism.

As a student at Northwestern University in 1996, Sullivan worked with two fellow students on a project that ultimately freed four men, including two death-row inmates, who had been wrongfully convicted of an 18-year-old murder on the south side of Chicago. The case led to a review of Illinois' death row and a moratorium on capital punishment in the state, and received several awards.

Outside of her career as a reporter, Sullivan once spent a summer gutting fish in Alaska, and another summer cutting trails outside Yosemite National Park. She says these experiences gave her "a sense of adventure" that comes through in her reporting. Sullivan, who was born and raised in San Francisco, loves traveling the country to report radio stories that "come to life in a way that was never possible in print."

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Some homes have fallen into disrepair in the Midland Beach neighborhood in Staten Island, N.Y. Almost four years since the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, many are still dealing with the storm's consequences. Bryan Thomas for NPR hide caption

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N.Y. Attorney General: Nation's Flood Insurance Program Defrauding Taxpayers

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Haitians outside a Red Cross field hospital in Carrefour, Haiti, on Dec. 14, 2010, 11 months after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the country's capital, Port-au-Prince. Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Report: Red Cross Spent 25 Percent Of Haiti Donations On Internal Expenses

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Some homes have fallen into disrepair in the Midland Beach neighborhood in Staten Island, N.Y. Almost four years since the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, many on Staten Island are still dealing with the storm's consequences. Bryan Thomas for NPR hide caption

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Lawmakers To FEMA: Flood Plan Overhaul Is 'Too Little, Too Late'

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Nick and Diane Camerada stand inside their home on Staten Island, N.Y. During Superstorm Sandy, the Cameradas had water up to the second floor of their home. More than three years later, they are still living in a home that is only partially renovated while continuing to deal with bureaucratic nightmares. Bryan Thomas for NPR hide caption

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Business Of Disaster: Local Recovery Programs Struggle To Help Homeowners

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The Pitfalls Of Creating A Disaster Recovery Program From Scratch

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Doug Quinn stands on the empty lot where his house used to be. Bryan Thomas for NPR hide caption

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Business Of Disaster: Insurance Firms Profited $400 Million After Sandy

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Red Cross Effort To Shut Down Inquiry Fails; Report Calls For Outside Oversight

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American Red Cross chief Gail McGovern (right) and Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana tour the American Red Cross Digital Operations Center last year in Washington, D.C. Paul Morigi/AP Images for American Red Cross hide caption

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The Red Cross funded these homes in the Parc Tony Colin community in Bon Repos, Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, but residents say the structures are starting to deteriorate from water damage. Newly obtained internal reports raise questions about how the Red Cross spent nearly $500 million in Haiti. Marie Arago for NPR hide caption

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Documents Show Red Cross May Not Know How It Spent Millions In Haiti

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Sen. Grassley Gives Red Cross Deadline To Explain Haiti Spending

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After the earthquake in Haiti, the American Red Cross raised nearly $500 million. Five years later, it is difficult to know where all that money went. Marie Arago for NPR hide caption

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In Search Of The Red Cross' $500 Million In Haiti Relief

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