Connect with UPR:

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

Presidential Race
9:36 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

Romney Rules Rural As Obama's Support Wanes

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney autographs a coal miner's hat during a campaign event Aug. 14 at American Energy Corp. in Beallsville, Ohio.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 7:08 am

The nation's smallest and most remote places are providing Mitt Romney's biggest margins in battleground states as the 2012 presidential race enters its final weeks.

In fact, rural counties are keeping Romney competitive in the states that are now up for grabs. That's what a new bipartisan survey indicates. The poll also finds that President Obama's rural support has plunged since 2008.

Read more
The Two-Way
2:08 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

U.S. Speedskater Accused Of Sabotaging Rival

Simon Cho of the U.S. celebrates during the 500 meter men's final race at the Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in Dresden in 2011.
Jens Meyer AP

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 4:53 pm

The allegations of physical and verbal abuse at U.S. Speedskating have a new twist: A coach allegedly directed a skater to tamper with the skates of a Canadian competitor at an international competition last year — and the skater complied.

Read more
The Two-Way
12:05 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Speedskaters Step Up Abuse Allegations Against Coach

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 1:19 pm

The abuse allegations against U.S. Olympic short track speedskating coach Jae Su Chun have escalated with a demand for arbitration and an "open and ongoing investigation" by police.

But while a large group of skaters charge Chun with abuse, another set has issued a statement in support of the coach.

Read more
The Two-Way
8:05 am
Mon September 17, 2012

Short Track Speedskating Coach Put On Leave Amid Abuse Allegations

Short track speedskating coach Jae Su Chun was a guest at a State Dinner at the White House in May 2010.
Alexis C. Glenn UPI /Landov

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 4:19 pm

U.S. Speedskating has placed head short track coach Jae Su Chun on administrative leave in response to complaints of physical, verbal and psychological abuse.

Nineteen current and former skaters, including five Olympic medalists, signed complaints filed with U.S. Speedskating and the U.S. Olympic Committee. An attorney for the skaters says two of the athletes are also completing police reports in Utah, where U.S. Speedskating is based and where the athletes train.

Read more
NPR Story
5:48 am
Thu August 9, 2012

U.S. Women's Soccer, Water Polo Team Go For Gold

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 6:12 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Two big gold medal matches of the Olympics are set for tonight in London. Both involve American women's teams with extraordinary incentives to win.

In water polo, the U.S. women are trying to end 12 years of frustration and finally take the gold. And in soccer, the Americans have a chance at redemption. They play Japan, which beat them in last year's World Cup final in a game-ending shootout.

From London, NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

Read more
The Torch
2:11 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

U.S. Women's Water Polo Team Wins In Overtime To Reach Gold Medal Game

U.S. water polo players on the bench react during their semifinal match between Australia and the United States at the Water Polo Arena in London. The Americans will play for gold on Thursday.
Adam Pretty Getty Images

The American women's water polo team will again chase an elusive gold medal, this time at the London Olympics. The team qualified for the gold medal match by defeating longtime Olympic rival Australia.

Tied after regular time expired, the Americans scored two goals in overtime to beat the Australian water polo women, 11-9. Now the U.S. team moves on to the gold medal match Thursday.

Read more
The Torch
7:48 am
Sun August 5, 2012

Even A 'No' Is An Olympic Moment When It's Said By Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps and the special award he received Saturday night to mark his Olympic achievements.
Al Bello Getty Images

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 9:38 am

An only-at-the-Olympics tale:

As Michael Phelps left a news conference at the Olympic Aquatic Center on Saturday, a photographer rushed up and asked, "Can I get one more photo?"

Read more
Sports
5:31 am
Sun August 5, 2012

Runner With Artificial Legs Sprints Past Barrier

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 5:34 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And if there weren't enough excitement at the Olympics, another kind of record was made yesterday at the Olympic Stadium. A double amputee with artificial legs raced for the first time ever in the Olympics. South African Oscar Pistorious qualified for the semifinals tonight in the 400-meter sprint.

NPR's Howard Berkes reports from London.

HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: The first heat of the Olympic 400 sounded like any other race.

(SOUNDBITE OF STARTING GUN)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From the inside...

Read more
Sports
3:14 am
Fri August 3, 2012

U.S. Swims Deeper Into The Record Books

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 3:30 am

Michael Phelps won his 20th Olympic medal, the gold, in his last race with Ryan Lochte, who took the silver. Rebecca Soni won a gold, as well. All in all, it was a good day for American swimmers. NPR's Howard Berkes reports from London.

The Torch
8:57 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Missy Franklin On Winning Gold: 'Someone Needs To Pinch Me'

Missy Franklin stands on the podium with her gold medal, after winning the 100m backstroke at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Of that moment, she says, "I was trying to sing, but I was like, crying, at the same time."
Adam Pretty Getty Images

Missy Franklin couldn't contain herself — in the pool, on the medals stand and at her first gold medal news conference — after a dramatic finish in the 100 meter Olympic backstroke Monday night in London.

It wasn't an easy race. Out front and pulling hard with her graceful but powerful strokes, Emily Seebohm of Australia led in the last 50 meters, with the American Franklin a few strokes back.

Read more

Pages