Howard Berkes

Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.

Since 2010, Berkes has focused mostly on investigative projects, beginning with the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster in West Virginia in which 29 workers died. Since then, Berkes has reported on coal mine and workplace safety, including the safety lapses at the Upper Big Branch mine, other failures in mine safety regulation, the resurgence of the deadly coal miners disease black lung and weak enforcement of grain bin safety as worker deaths reached a record high. Berkes was part of the team that collaborated with the Center for Public Integrity in 2011 resulting in Poisoned Places, a series exploring weaknesses in air pollution regulation by states and EPA.

Before moving into his current role, Berkes spent a decade serving as NPR's first rural affairs correspondent. His reporting focused on the politics, economics and culture of rural America.

Based in Salt Lake City, Berkes reported on the stories that are often unique to non-urban communities or provide a rural perspective on major issues and events. In 2005 and 2006, he was part of the NPR reporting team that covered Hurricane Katrina, emphasizing impacts in rural areas. His rural reporting also included the effects of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on military families and service men and women from rural America, including a disproportionate death rate from this community. During multiple presidential and congressional campaigns, Berkes has covered the impact of rural voters on those races.

Berkes has also covered eight summer and winter Olympic games, beginning with the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, through the 2012 games in London. His reporting in 1998 about Salt Lake City's Olympic bid helped transform a largely local story about suspicious payments to the relatives of members of the International Olympic Committee into an international ethics scandal that resulted in Federal and Congressional investigations.

Berkes' ongoing reporting of Olympic politics and the Olympic Games has made him a resource to other news organizations, including The PBS Newshour, MSNBC, A&E's Investigative Reports, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the French magazine L'Express, Al Jazeera America and others. When the Olympics finally arrived in Salt Lake City, Berkes' coverage included rides in a bobsled and on a luge sled in attempts to help listeners understand how those sports work. Berkes was part of the reporting team that earned NPR a 2009 Edward R. Murrow Award for Sports Reporting for coverage of the Beijing Olympics.

In 1981, Berkes pioneered NPR's coverage of the interior of the American West and public lands issues. He's traveled thousands of miles since then, to every corner of the region, driving ranch roads, city streets, desert washes, and mountain switchbacks, to capture the voices and sounds that give the region its unique identity.

Berkes' stories are heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. His analysis of regional issues was featured on NPR's Talk of the Nation. Berkes has also been a substitute host of Morning Edition and Weekend All Things Considered.

An easterner by birth, Berkes moved west in 1976, and soon became a volunteer at NPR member station KLCC in Eugene, Oregon. His reports on the 1980 eruptions of Mt. St. Helens were regular features on NPR and prompted his hiring by the network. Berkes is sometimes best remembered for his story that provided the first detailed account of the attempt by Morton Thiokol engineers to stop the fatal 1986 launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Berkes teamed with NPR's Daniel Zwerdling for the report, which earned a number of major national journalism awards. In 1989, Berkes followed up with another award-winning report that examined NASA's efforts to redesign the Space Shuttle's rocket boosters.

Berkes has covered Native American issues, the militia movement, neo-nazi groups, nuclear waste, the Unabomber case, the Montana Freemen standoff, polygamy, the Mormon faith, western water issues, mass shootings and more. His work has been honored by many organizations, including the American Psychological Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, the Harvard Kennedy School and the National Association of Science Writers.

Berkes has also trained news reporters, consulted with radio news departments, and served as a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. In 1997, he was awarded a Nieman Foundation Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University.

Pages

12:09pm

Tue August 9, 2011
The Two-Way

D.B. Cooper Update: FBI Says No DNA Match With New Suspect

Our colleagues at public radio's Northwest News Network (N3) first reported a DNA mismatch between the new suspect in the 1971 D.B. Cooper skyjacking and evidence from the hijacked plane.

The failed DNA test was disclosed Friday by Marla Cooper, the woman who claims that her late uncle, Lynn Doyle (L.D.) Cooper, was the famous skyjacker.

Read more

9:33am

Fri August 5, 2011
The Two-Way

Polygamists Condemn Warren Jeffs' Sexual Abuse

As a Texas jury considers a possible life sentence for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, a coalition of polygamist groups is condemning the sexual abuse that led to Jeffs' conviction.

"We are alarmed that such depravity could have been perpetrated by anyone," says a written statement from the Principle Rights Coalition, a group representing five polygamist groups in Arizona and Utah, as well as "numerous other independent Fundamentalist Mormons."

Read more

12:43pm

Thu August 4, 2011
The Two-Way

FBI Cryptic, Family More Vocal About D.B. Cooper 'Suspect'

Lynn D. Cooper's grave site in Pine Butte Cemetery in Bend, Oregon, about 22 miles from Sisters, Oregon.
David Nogueras Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Oklahoma woman who sparked renewed interest in the 1971 D.B. Cooper skyjacking continues to provide new details about the uncle she identifies as the famous hijacker.

Marla Cooper also revealed plans to write and publish a book for release in November in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the skyjacking.

Read more

7:08am

Wed August 3, 2011
The Two-Way

ABC News: New D.B. Cooper Clues Come From 'Niece'

ABC News has a report out this morning that claims to name the source of the new information in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking. ABC says unnamed and unspecified sources have confirmed that a woman named Marla Cooper provided the FBI with a guitar strap for fingerprint testing.

NPR is trying to independently confirm ABC's claim. The FBI has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Read more

7:49am

Tue August 2, 2011
The Two-Way

FBI Reveals More About New Possible Skyjack Suspect

An undated FBI sketch of D.B. Cooper.
AFP/Getty Images

As we reported yesterday, the FBI jump-started D.B. Cooper mania with its revelation it has a new suspect in the unsolved skyjacking that occurred 40 years ago this November.

New details continue to trickle out with each interview with FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt. Among the new bits of information about the man who may or may not prove to be D.B. Cooper:

-- The "suspect" died more than 10 years ago of natural causes

Read more

8:37am

Mon August 1, 2011
The Two-Way

FBI Says It Has 'A New Suspect' In D.B. Cooper Skyjacking

Originally published on Tue August 2, 2011 10:41 am

A 1971 artist's sketch released by the FBI shows the skyjacker known as 'Dan Cooper' and 'D.B. Cooper'. The sketch was made from the recollections of passengers and crew of a Northwest Orient Airlines jet he hijacked between Portland and Seattle.
Anonymous AP

Forty years after parachuting into folklore, the mysterious skyjacker identified as D.B. Cooper may soon be identified.

"We do actually have a new suspect we're looking at," says FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandolo Dietrich in a story in the British newspaper, The Telegraph. "And it comes from a credible lead who came to our attention recently via a law enforcement colleague."

Read more

Pages