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

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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

Migrants waiting to be picked up by the U.S. Border Patrol under an international bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas, earlier this month. Verónica G. Cárdenas for NPR hide caption

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Verónica G. Cárdenas for NPR

Migrant deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border hit a record high, in part due to drownings

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Venezuelan migrants Kimberly González and Denny Velasco and their children wait for a bus at Mission: Border Hope in Eagle Pass, Texas. Verónica G. Cárdenas for NPR hide caption

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A dramatic shift at the border as migrants converge on a remote corner of South Texas

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Avoiding big U.S. crossing points, migrants are now going through remote Texas towns

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Veterans of the civil rights movement of the 1960s see similarities today

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Some compare today's political divide to the Civil War. But what about the 1960s?

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Fredrika Newton stands next the bust of her late husband, Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton. NPS is considering a Black Panther Party National Historical Park. Marisa Penaloza/NPR hide caption

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The National Park Service expands its African-American history sites

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Vernetta Henson sits outside Union Baptist Church in Africatown. The church was started by Clotilda survivors in 1869. To her left is the bust of Cudjoe Lewis, one of the community's founder. Debbie Elliott/NPR hide caption

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Exploring the Clotilda, the last known slave ship in the U.S., brings hope

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Retired pastor Julián Moreno, 80, lost his great-granddaugther during the Robb Elementary School shooting. Patricia Lim/KUT hide caption

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A former pastor grieves the loss of his great-granddaughter in Uvalde

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Police officers walk past a makeshift memorial for the shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The Uvalde shooting renews questions about school security

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Zahra Yagana, her daughter Parisa and son Jawed spent close to two months at Fort McCoy in western Wisconsin. Eman Mohammed for NPR hide caption

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Newly arrived Afghans get creative and find their own way to homes

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United States Border Patrol agents on horseback try to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Río Grande near the Acuña Del Río International Bridge in Del Río, Texas on Sept. 19. PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Volunteer Sandra Hoeser plays frisbee with Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy on Sept. 30. There are nearly 13,000 Afghan refugees being cared for at the base under Operation Allies Welcome. Barbara Davidson/Getty Images hide caption

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Wisconsin military base turns into a small city as Afghans await resettlement

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