Laura Sullivan Laura Sullivan is a NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most disadvantaged people.
Linda Fittante
Laura Sullivan - 2015
Linda Fittante

Laura Sullivan

Correspondent, NPR Investigations

Laura Sullivan is an 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.

She is also an on-air correspondent for the PBS television show FRONTLINE. Her investigations have examined the crisis in affordable housing in 2017 and 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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U.S. Army soldiers in Puerto Rico unload food on Oct. 17, 2017. Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria hit, the federal government was still delivering basic supplies, like food and water. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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FEMA Blamed Delays In Puerto Rico On Maria; Agency Records Tell Another Story

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Federal Response To Puerto Rico Reignites Statehood Push

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Jaime Degraff sits outside on Sept. 23, 2017, as he waits for the Puerto Rican electrical grid to be fixed after Hurricane Maria. The island is still struggling with power outages. Carol Guzy/ZUMA Press hide caption

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How Puerto Rico's Debt Created A Perfect Storm Before The Storm

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How FEMA Failed To Help Victims Of Hurricanes in Puerto Rico Recover

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Even Before Hurricane Maria Hit, Puerto Rico Was In Financial Ruin

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Millions of Americans struggle to afford their rent and most don't get any help at all. In Dallas, the city and a prominent landlord are the latest moving pieces in this problem. Allison V. Smith for KERA hide caption

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Allison V. Smith for KERA

Choosing Between Squalor Or The Street: Housing Without Government Aid

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How The Affordable Housing Crisis Is Playing Out In One Dallas Neighborhood

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A man walks into the building of the Internal Revenue Service, which oversees the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program, in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2016. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Farryn Giles and her son Isaiah, 6, walk in their east Dallas neighborhood. While she received a Section 8 voucher to help them move to a neighborhood with more opportunities, finding an apartment that would take the voucher was challenging. Brandon Thibodeaux for NPR hide caption

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Brandon Thibodeaux for NPR

Section 8 Vouchers Help The Poor — But Only If Housing Is Available

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The $25 million Labre Place in Miami was built using the low-income housing tax credit program. It's named for the patron saint for the homeless and is now home to 90 low-income residents, about half of whom were once homeless. Screenshot courtesy of Frontline (PBS) hide caption

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Screenshot courtesy of Frontline (PBS)

Affordable Housing Program Costs More, Shelters Fewer

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News Brief: Sally Yates Testimony, South Korea Election, 'Frontline' Probe

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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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