Marisa Peñaloza Marisa Peñaloza is a senior producer on the National Desk.
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Marisa Peñaloza

Marisa Peñaloza/NPR
Marisa Peñaloza headshot
Marisa Peñaloza/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 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. In 2020, she traveled to Iraq and embedded with U.S. forces in Syria to report on the work the troops were doing on the ground after President Trump decided to withdraw a large portion of the forces in the fall of 2019. She's 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 contributions to NPR's digital coverage of the current Coronavirus pandemic have been significant and ongoing. She reported the events of January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. Her past productions include coverage of the 2020 election; 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.

Story Archive

Saturday

Wednesday

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen speaks at a community meeting at the Lahaina Civic Center. A complex cleanup is underway seven months after the wildfire, intended to protect historic buildings and artifacts. Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR hide caption

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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR

Native Hawaiians aim to bring cultural sensitivity to Maui wildfire cleanup

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Tuesday

Chef Jojo Vasquez in the open kitchen of FOND – a Neighborhood Eatery, in west Maui. Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR hide caption

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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR

A Maui chef's lifeline: his restaurant as the island recovers from Lahaina wildfires

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Monday

Arica Lynn Souza and her children Ayla, 3, left, and Silas, 4, on the porch of the family home where they are staying temporarily after losing their Lahaina townhome in the wildfires. Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR hide caption

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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR

Friday

Nadine Chapman (left) and Rachel Perić are residents of the Rollingwood subdivision who are working together to publicize and memorialize the Rollingwood Burial Ground for Enslaved People in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Dee Dwyer for NPR hide caption

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Dee Dwyer for NPR

Thursday

A whale watch tour embarks on a voyage with tourists visiting the island of Maui in January. Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR hide caption

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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR

Six months after the Maui fires, an uncertain economy for the island

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Friday

Women began reporting and covering TV news when the first Spanish-language network went on the air in the 1960's in the United States. Jaclyn Nash/Smithsonian's National Museum of American History hide caption

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Jaclyn Nash/Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Las mujeres periodistas incursionaron en las noticias de televisión en español en la década de los 1960, cuando salió al aire la primera cadena hispana de televisión en los Estados Unidos. Jaclyn Nash/Smithsonian's National Museum of American History hide caption

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Jaclyn Nash/Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Saturday

Thursday

The Princess Nahi'ena'ena Elementary School in Lahaina is closed pending the results of air, water and soil tests. Pien Huang/NPR hide caption

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Pien Huang/NPR

Some parents in Lahaina fight to keep their school — and kids — together

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Friday

Danilo Andres, 60, outside his home in Lahaina. The fire jumped his home and a surrounding cluster. Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

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Claire Harbage/NPR

Their house miraculously survived the wildfire, but no longer feels like home

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Tuesday

Some farmers in Honduras are finding ways to successfully adapt to climate change

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Monday

In Honduras, climate-caused agriculture problems hit women and girls especially hard

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Climate change is pushing young people in Honduras to leave farming and migrate

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Sunday

On the road to Lagunas La Iguala, a village in the highlands of western Honduras. Tomas Ayuso for NPR hide caption

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Tomas Ayuso for NPR

Jacqueline Trejo, mayor of Macuelizo, walks past one of the town's murals. The pink flowering tree that's depicted is the source of the town's name. She wanted to improve the quality of life there but lacked the funds to fulfill her plans. Tomas Ayuso for NPR hide caption

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Tomas Ayuso for NPR

Thursday

The AG Gaston Motel is part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, a collection of landmarks associated with 1963 Birmingham Campaign events, like The Children's Crusade. Marisa Peñaloza/NPR hide caption

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Marisa Peñaloza/NPR

Birmingham honors the Black businessman who quietly backed the Civil Rights Movement

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Friday

Foot soldier Paulette Roby stands in Birmingham's Kelly Ingram Park, one of the sites where students peacefully marched in the Spring of 1963 demanding equal rights. Debbie Elliot/NPR hide caption

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Debbie Elliot/NPR

60 years since 'The Children's Crusade' changed Birmingham and the nation

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Friday

Luis Suárez, a 37-year-old from Venezuela, was repeatedly timed out of the CBP One app, days after officials announced major upgrades. He has been unable to schedule an appointment on the platform for about six months, he said. Joel Rose/NPR hide caption

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Joel Rose/NPR

Migrants are frustrated with the border app, even after its latest overhaul

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Thursday

Texas National Guard troops set up razor wire in El Paso, Texas. Officials are anticipating a wave of immigrants on Thursday night, with the end of the U.S. government's COVID-era Title 42 policy. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption

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John Moore/Getty Images

Tuesday

Cook employees Ryan and Shelby Bixler stand in front of the house they're buying from the company. They say they never could have afforded a new place like this at the full market price. Jennifer Ludden/NPR hide caption

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Jennifer Ludden/NPR

Would you live next to co-workers for the right price? This company is betting yes

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Saturday

Joe Kramer sings during the outdoor service at the Southwest Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. Octavio Jones for NPR hide caption

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Octavio Jones for NPR

'Your whole life is gone': Elderly retirees in Florida struggle to rebuild after Ian

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Tuesday

Jimmy Driggers and his wife Shirley pose for a portrait on Oct. 28, 2022 in Pine Island, Fla., where their home was severely flooded by a storm surge from Hurricane Ian in September. Octavio Jones for NPR hide caption

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Octavio Jones for NPR

Still reeling from Ian, Florida shrimpers are desperate to get back on the water

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Wednesday

Venezuelan migrants are among those lining up to receive clothing, food and haircuts at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan earlier this month. José A. Alvarado Jr. for NPR hide caption

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José A. Alvarado Jr. for NPR

The U.S. admitted thousands of Venezuelan migrants. Many are now stuck in legal limbo

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