Marisa Penaloza - 2014 i
Kainaz Amaria/NPR
Marisa Penaloza - 2014
Kainaz Amaria/NPR

Marisa Peñaloza

Senior Producer, National Desk

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.

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Mary Helen Flores (center) is the founder of Citizens Against Voter Abuse. John Burnett/NPR hide caption

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Jonathan Treviño poses in front of a drug bust. Courtesy of Jonathan Treviño hide caption

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Jonathan Treviño shows seized contraband. The former police narcotics squad leader is currently serving 17 years in prison for reselling narcotics back to drug dealers. Courtesy of Jonathan Treviño hide caption

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Elena Biamon holds coffee berries grown on her farm near Jayuya, a town in Puerto Rico's mountainous interior. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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PREPA's Central Palo Seco power station in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The utility's bondholders want to raise rates. That's a challenge when the median income is about half that of Mississippi, yet the U.S. territory's energy costs are among the highest in the nation. Alvin Baez-Hernandez/Reuters/Landov hide caption

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Dalma Cartagena teaches a class on agricultural science to elementary-school students in Orocovis, Puerto Rico. "I'm preparing them to make good decisions when it comes to the environment and healthy foods," she says. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

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Protesters gather April 30 outside Puerto Rico's Capitol building in San Juan to oppose Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla's budget proposal. The plan would raise taxes to help cover the state's massive debt. Ricardo Arduengo/AP hide caption

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David Padilla with his grandchildren. Seventeen years ago, a judge found Padilla guilty of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Courtesy of the Padilla Family hide caption

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Stephanie George (right) with her daughter, Kendra, and son Courtney. They were 5 and 8 when she went to prison on a drug charge. Last December, President Obama commuted her sentence. Marisa Peñaloza/NPR hide caption

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The shocking death of basketball player Len Bias from a cocaine overdose in 1986 led Congress to pass tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes. AP hide caption

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NPR's series looks at the human toll of mandatory minimum prison sentences. The White House and the Justice Department have taken the unprecedented step of asking for candidates who might win early release from prison through presidential pardons or commutations in the final years of the Obama presidency. Dan Henson/iStockphoto hide caption

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Scott Pegau, a scientist at the Prince William Sound Science Center, studies the effects of spilled oil on the environment in Cordova, Alaska. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Orca Inlet, Cordova's fishing harbor, on a blustery day this month. Commercial fishing is the small Alaskan town's primary industry. Marisa Peñaloza/NPR hide caption

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