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.

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The Two-Way
10:37 am
Mon August 1, 2011

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

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

Originally published on Tue August 2, 2011 12:41 pm

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."

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The Two-Way
12:27 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Feds Seek Injunction To Stop Mine Inspection Dodge

The Labor Department wants a federal court judge in Kentucky to issue a rare injunction against a Kentucky coal mine accused of warning miners underground about a surprise federal mine safety inspection.

The inspectors for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) allege in court documents that a June 17 late-night, surprise inspection at CAM Mining's #28 mine in Pike County, Ky., was thwarted by mine managers.

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It's All Politics
2:45 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Gallup Poll: Many Americans Still Cool To A Mormon As President

As former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman declares his candidacy for president, Gallup is out with a new poll that suggests a significant percentage of Americans aren't ready for a Mormon president.

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The Two-Way
1:17 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Rising Water Traps Three Miners In Kentucky Coal Mine

Heavy rain and flooding have trapped three coal miners underground in the Jellico #1 mine in southeastern Kentucky's Bell County.

None of the miners are thought to be injured.

A spokeswoman at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) says the three miners managed to reach a high spot in the mine and are in communication by phone with officials on the surface. The incident began around 6:40 a.m. ET.

"Pumps are diverting water out of the mine," says MSHA's Amy Louviere. "MSHA personnel are on site, and rescue teams are en route to the mine."

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The Two-Way
12:51 am
Thu June 16, 2011

Still No Criminal Charges In 2007 Utah Mine Disaster

Four years after nine coal miners and mine rescuers died underground in the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, federal prosecutors say they're still not ready to file criminal charges or to conclude no charges are warranted.

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