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

For two consecutive years Peñaloza has been 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 the 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 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.

[+] read more[-] less

Story Archive

Hurricane María's 150-mph winds destroyed the tropical rainforest's canopy and stripped trees bare. Scientists believe as many as one-fifth of the forest's trees may eventually die from the storm's effects. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

Irma Rivera Aviles and her husband, Ivan Martínez, stand in front of their home last month. Rivera Aviles was ecstatic about the restoration of power to her neighborhood last Friday. Marisa Penaloza/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Marisa Penaloza/NPR

Irma Rivera Aviles and her husband Ivan Martínez live in a tight-knit working-class community called El Pueblito in Cataño. Their community flooded during Hurricane Maria leaving their house damaged with a hole in the roof. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

'We Don't Feel Safe Here': Building A Post-Hurricane Life In Puerto Rico

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/567503885/567573010" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Jared Haley, general manager of the C-Axis plant in Caguas, Puerto Rico, says computer-operated milling machines like this one can cost more than a half-million dollars. Heat and humidity in the plant after Hurricane Maria left many of the machines inoperable, Haley says. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

Puerto Rico's Medical Manufacturers Worry Federal Tax Plan Could Kill Storm Recovery

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/566771228/566808704" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Eric Elder, an Army reservist who came to Puerto Rico in early October to do power line work, says the work is challenging. "Every pole is different, every pole has to be looked at and dressed differently." Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

When Will Power Come Back To Puerto Rico? Depends Who You Ask

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/564439127/564936620" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Roberto Fret, 54, stands in the backyard of his damaged home. Hurricane Maria blew the roof off the house; the wind was so powerful that it twisted the metal roofing material and scattered pieces of it all over the yard. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

Thousands Of Puerto Ricans Are Still In Shelters. Now What?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/563737457/564026021" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Army Reserve troops have been distributing water and other supplies in Morovis since Hurricane Maria struck more than six weeks ago. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

Frustration Mounts Over Puerto Rico's 'New Normal' As Federal Troops Leave The Island

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/563028732/563133801" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Together, José Ortíz (center left) and Ethan Leder (center right) — without the help of any major agency or aid organization — chartered a plane to Puerto Rico filled with donated medical supplies and get people with acute medical needs out of the island for treatment in the continental U.S. Courtesy of Willin Rodriguez hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Willin Rodriguez

Jose Rolon Rivera, 7, receives medication for his asthma at the San Jorge Children's Hospital in Puerto Rico. The hospital only has enough fuel to power its emergency generators until Saturday, an administrator says. Angel Valentin for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Angel Valentin for NPR

In Puerto Rico, Relying On Luck And Enough Gas To Get Medical Care

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/554182929/554187619" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

As in the rest of the country, growers in heavily agricultural northern Michigan rely overwhelmingly on migrant laborers to work the fields and orchards. Most of the pickers are from Mexico. Growers say it's just about impossible to find Americans to do this work. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Melissa Block/NPR

'They're Scared': Immigration Fears Exacerbate Migrant Farmworker Shortage

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/552636014/554057404" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Carmen Rivera (at left in the orange dress) sits on a cot at the Cataño shelter. She suffers from severe asthma and knee pain and has had to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital for asthma treatment twice since the hurricane. She says she feels forgotten by authorities. Greg Allen/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Greg Allen/NPR

Desperation In Puerto Rican Town Where 60 Percent Are Now Homeless

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/553532405/553532475" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Houston Experiences Extreme Flooding As Rain Continues To Fall From Harvey

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/546537887/546867252" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Hurricane Harvey left damaged homes in Sienna Plantation, a collection of subdivisions in Missouri City, about 20 miles south of Houston. Marisa Peñaloza/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Marisa Peñaloza/NPR