Debbie Elliott

After a stint on Capitol Hill, NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott is back covering her native South.

From a giant sinkhole swallowing up a bayou community in Louisiana to new state restrictions on abortion providers, Elliott keeps track of the region's news. She also reports on cultural treasures such as an historic church in need of preservation in Helena, Arkansas; the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' lower 9th ward; and the hidden-away Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama.

She's looking back at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, and following the legal battles between states and the federal government over immigration enforcement, healthcare, and voting rights.

Her coverage of the BP oil spill has focused on the human impact of the spill, the complex litigation to determine responsibility for the disaster, and how the region is recovering. She launched the series, "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the history and culture of south Louisiana, the state's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the oil spill's lasting impact on a fragile coastline.

Debbie has reported on the new entrepreneurial boom in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as that city's decades-long struggle with violent crime, and a broken criminal justice system. She's examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup. She's taken NPR listeners on a musical tour of Memphis in a pink Cadillac, and profiled writers and musicians including Aaron Neville, Sandra Boynton, and Trombone Shorty.

Look for Debbie's signature political coverage as well. She's watching vulnerable Congressional seats and tracking southern politicians who have higher political aspirations. She was part of NPR's election team in 2008 and 2112 — reporting live from the floor of the political conventions, following the Presidential campaigns around the country, and giving voice to voters making their choice.

During her tenure in Washington, DC, Debbie covered Congress and hosted NPR's All Things Considered on the weekends. In that role she interviewed a variety of luminaries and world leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She celebrated the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant" with Arlo Guthrie, and mixed it up on the rink with the Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls. She profiled the late historian John Hope Franklin and the children's book author Eric Carle.

Since joining NPR in 1995, Debbie has covered the re-opening of civil-rights-era murder cases, the legal battle over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the Elian Gonzales custody dispute from Miami, and a number of major hurricanes, from Andrew to Katrina. Debbie was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida, for election night in 2000, and was one of the first national reporters on the scene for the contentious presidential election contest that followed. She has covered landmark smoker lawsuits, the tobacco settlement with states, the latest trends in youth smoking and electronic cigarettes, and tobacco-control policy and regulation. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Debbie Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication. She's the former news director of member station WUAL (now Alabama Public Radio).

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1:09am

Thu July 5, 2012
Around the Nation

New Orleans Struggles With Murder Rate, And Trust

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 8:25 pm

Sgt. Miro Brekalo talks with residents in New Orleans' Gentilly neighborhood, as other officers walk their beat. Their goal isn't only to stop crime; it's also to connect with citizens who are often reluctant to report crimes.
Debbie Elliott NPR

New Orleans now has the highest per capita murder rate in the country. Most of the killings are concentrated in the city's poorest neighborhoods — places like Central City, just a few blocks north of the stately mansions that line St. Charles Avenue.

The city's mayor is launching a new program aimed at cracking what he describes as a deeply rooted culture of violence. But victims complain that a failed criminal justice system has left the streets to vigilante justice, with innocent residents caught in the crossfire.

A Wounded Neighborhood

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2:55am

Tue July 3, 2012
Business

Airbus: 'The Time Is Right' To Open Alabama Plant

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 3:31 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Jobs and the economy are big issues in this election. And from Alabama, we have a story of jobs coming from overseas to the U.S. European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is making a bold move into North America to compete in the largest market in the world for passenger jets.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The firm will build its first U.S. assembly plant on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports the region has been working for years to attract Airbus.

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2:25pm

Mon July 2, 2012
NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century

Filling In New Orleans' Future, One Blank At A Time

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 7:19 pm

Candy Chang, co-founder of the website Neighborland, writes on an art installation in New Orleans in April. As part of a public street art project that later became Neighborland, Chang put nametag-like stickers on empty New Orleans storefronts for residents to write ideas for improving the city.
Katie Hayes Luke for NPR

New Orleans became a blank slate after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. And ever since, entrepreneurs have rushed in to experiment with new ideas for building and running a city.

Among them is a startup called Neighborland.com, a social media tool for sharing ideas to make your neighborhood better. After signing in to Neighborland, you can find your neighborhood and post your idea. The posts all start with "I want," and you fill in the rest.

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1:44pm

Fri June 29, 2012
Health

Sole Abortion Clinic In Miss. Fights Law To Stay Open

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 8:26 pm

Abortion opponents demonstrate outside Mississippi's only abortion clinic in Jackson.
Rogelio V. Solis AP

A new Mississippi law requires doctors who perform abortions in the state to be board-certified OB-GYNs. They also must have privileges to admit patients at a local hospital.

The law is regulatory in nature, but at a bill-signing ceremony in April, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves was clear about the intent.

"We have an opportunity today with the signing of this bill to end abortion in Mississippi," he said.

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3:47am

Sun June 17, 2012
Media

Like Good Bourbon, Magazine Is A Sip Of The South

Originally published on Sun June 17, 2012 11:23 am

David DiBenedetto, the editor-in-chief of Garden & Gun, holds an editorial meeting in the magazine's Charleston, S.C., offices.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Garden & Gun magazine bills itself as the "Soul of the South." In five short years, the up-and-coming magazine has amassed a dedicated following and picked up critical acclaim.

The cover of the summer issue of Garden & Gun entices you to hit a Southern road. A smiling young woman in skinny white jeans, a straw hat and wayfarers tucked into her pocket appears ready to jump into a vintage red Mercedes roadster, top down — all under a bright Carolina blue sky.

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2:53am

Thu June 14, 2012
Media

'A Morning Ritual': New Orleans Fights For Its Paper

Originally published on Thu June 14, 2012 5:07 am

A New Orleans newspaper stand holds copies of Wednesday's Times-Picayune, which announced layoffs for 200 employees.
Debbie Elliott NPR

What happens when a media company wants to take away your daily newspaper? In New Orleans, you take to the streets.

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1:30pm

Fri June 8, 2012
The Salt

Food Truck Cookbook Tracks Best Meals Served On Wheels

Originally published on Fri June 8, 2012 4:59 pm

The crew of Shindigs sets up shop in a parking lot in Birmingham.
Debbie Elliott NPR

With recent news that even Paris has one, food trucks are certainly in vogue these days. In the U.S., they're now spreading from the hot scenes in Los Angeles and New York to smaller cities, like Milwaukee and Madison. Even school systems are jumping on the food truck bandwagon.

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2:30pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Election 2012

Enthusiasm For Romney Runs Low In Fla. Panhandle

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 5:07 pm

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a rally in Pensacola, Fla., in January.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Now that former candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are endorsing Mitt Romney to be the Republican nominee for president, the GOP is working to get the rank and file to fall in line.

That's especially important in swing states like Florida. But in the primary, Romney struggled in the Panhandle of the Sunshine State — a bastion of conservative voters. And it might take more convincing for them to really get behind the former Massachusetts governor.

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4:06pm

Fri April 20, 2012
The Disappearing Coast

Two Years Later, BP Spill Reminders Litter Gulf Coast

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 4:17 pm

Pictured here on April 13, 2011, Barataria Bay — part of Louisiana's Barataria Basin — was one of the hardest hit areas in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Today, obvious signs of the spill have faded, but communities are still reeling from its effects.
Mario Tama Getty Images

It's been two years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The oil has long stopped flowing and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up oiled beaches and waterways, but the disaster isn't necessarily over.

Oil fouled some 1,100 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline, but today, in most spots, you can't see obvious signs of the spill. In Orange Beach, Ala., the clear emerald waters of the Gulf roll onto sugar-white sand beaches.

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1:38am

Tue April 10, 2012
Law

Federal Court To Weigh Graphic Cigarette Labels

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 6:09 am

This image provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows one of nine new warning labels it wants cigarette makers to use. Tobacco companies have sued, claiming the mandate is unconstitutional.
AP

The question of how far the government can go in forcing a business — in this case cigarette makers — to warn consumers about its product is before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration wants large, graphic warning labels to scare smokers, but tobacco companies say that violates their right to free speech.

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1:00pm

Mon March 12, 2012
Election 2012

GOP Candidates Make Last-Minute Appeals In South

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 7:56 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. The push is on for Republican voters in the heart of Dixie. Tomorrow, Alabama and Mississippi hold primaries. And today, that's where you could spot Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. During visits to the Gulf Coast, each of them bashed President Obama's record on energy, as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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4:20am

Sun March 11, 2012
Mitt Romney

To Woo South, Romney Needs More Than A Twang

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 11:29 am

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Miss., on Friday. The former Massachusetts governor has skeptics in the Deep South.
Rogelio Solis AP

Mitt Romney picked up some support in Saturday's contests, but there may be trouble lurking for him in the near future as the GOP race moves to the Deep South.

Despite his second-place finish in Kansas, Romney scored victories Saturday in caucuses in Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also won county conventions in Wyoming.

Tuesday's primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi, and the reddest of states are proving to be a tough sell for the former Massachusetts governor. He's trying his best to connect with the Republican base.

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2:24pm

Sat March 3, 2012
Around the Nation

Settlement Only The First Step In BP's Legal Woes

Originally published on Sat March 3, 2012 3:09 pm

A cross with the words "Promises Made"-- referring to statements from BP and government officials — stands in front of a pile of crosses symbolizing things that were impacted by the spill, in a front yard in Grand Isle, La.
Patrick Semansky AP

Oil giant BP has agreed to settle thousands of lawsuits stemming from its well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal was announced late Friday and prompted a federal judge in New Orleans to postpone a Monday trial, but the proposed settlement solves only one piece of BP's legal exposure from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

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2:00am

Thu March 1, 2012
Law

Georgia, Ala. Immigration Laws Challenged In Court

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 10:18 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Federal courts are nearing final judgment on some of the nation's toughest immigration laws.

Next month, the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the law in Arizona. Laws in two other states are now before a federal appeals court in Atlanta, as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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10:01pm

Wed February 15, 2012
Around the Nation

BP's Oil Slick Set To Spill Into Courtroom

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 8:53 am

Docks on the Bon Secour River sit idle nearly two years after the BP oil spill. The small fishing village of Bon Secour, Ala., is still suffering the lingering effects of the spill, despite government monitoring and assurances that Gulf seafood is not contaminated.
Debbie Elliott NPR

A federal court in New Orleans is preparing for one of the largest and most complex environmental lawsuits ever to come to court. It stems from the worst oil disaster in U.S. history: the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig nearly two years ago and the resulting oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.

Testimony is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. The case combines more than 500 lawsuits in one proceeding designed to determine who's responsible for what went wrong.

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10:01pm

Mon January 16, 2012
Newt Gingrich

Newt's 'Food Stamp President': Racial Or Just Politics?

All of the Republican presidential hopefuls take on President Obama in their stump speeches, attacking his health care plan, his jobs record and more.

But the shorthand former House Speaker Newt Gingrich uses, calling the nation's first black president the "food stamp president," is raising questions.

It's a theme Gingrich has used since Iowa, and he returned to it during a forum in Charleston, S.C., over the weekend.

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5:16am

Sun January 15, 2012
Around the Nation

America's Heartland Awaits Its Candidate

There's talk of reviving the shuttered paper mill in Brownstown, Ind. But for now, most rural residents have to travel bigger cities for work.
Debbie Elliott NPR

In this election year, an emerging theme coming from voters around the country is frustration with the tone of politics today. NPR's Debbie Elliott set out to revisit Brownstown, Ind., where she first talked with voters during the 1998 congressional elections, another acrimonious time.

Fourteen years ago, Anne Clodfelter was directing the Jackson County Homemakers Extension Chorus as they prepared for an upcoming concert.

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6:00am

Sat January 14, 2012
Presidential Race

Connecting With S.C. Voters, Candidates Try BBQ

The South Carolina primary is one week from Saturday. On Friday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum hit an upstate barbecue, vying to emerge as the candidate the state's conservative Republicans can rally behind. NPR's Debbie Elliott was there and has this report.

10:01pm

Wed December 28, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

In Katrina's Wake, New Orleans Enjoys Start-Up Boom

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 12:59 pm

Sudhir Sinha's company, InnoGenomics, is one of hundreds of startups that call New Orleans home.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a series

New Orleans has long been known as one of America's hardest luck cities, struggling over the years with poverty, crime, corruption and tragic disaster. But the city's darkest days have sparked a surprising new entrepreneurial spirit.

Residents Billy Bosch and Matt Mouras, for example, are trying to launch a nutritional beverage company and are getting a leg up from Idea Village, a nonprofit that helps nurture the city's entrepreneurs.

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4:12am

Sat December 24, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

In Camden, S.C., A Family's Generations Talk Race

Originally published on Sat December 24, 2011 10:07 pm

Sisters Ernestyne James Adams (right) and Althea James Truitt are concerned about the economy and today's political climate.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a series

With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.

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