Laura Sullivan

Correspondent

Laura Sullivan is an NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most disadvantaged people.

Sullivan is one of NPR's most decorated journalists, with three Peabody Awards and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons. She joined NPR in 2004 as a correspondent on the National Desk. For six years she covered crime and punishment issues, with reports airing regularly on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other NPR programs before joining NPR's investigations unit.

She is also an on-air correspondent for the PBS television show FRONTLINE. Her investigations have examined the "Blackout in Puerto Rico" in 2018, the crisis in affordable housing in 2017, and the "Business of Disaster" in May 2016, which examined who profits when disaster strikes. The film and radio pieces grew out of a series of investigations examining the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Superstorm Sandy. The pieces were honored with her second award from Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press and her third from Investigative Reporters and Editors.

Her unflinching series "Native Foster Care," which aired in three parts on All Things Considered in October 2011, examined how lack of knowledge about Native culture and traditions and federal financial funding all influence the decision to remove so many Native-American children from homes in South Dakota. Through more than 150 interviews with state and federal officials, tribal representatives and families from eight South Dakota tribes, plus a review of thousands of records, Sullivan and NPR producers pieced together a narrative of inequality in the foster care system across the state. In addition to her third Peabody, the series also won Sullivan her second Robert F. Kennedy Award.

"Bonding for Profit" – a three-part investigative series that aired on Morning Edition and All Things Considered in 2010 – earned Sullivan her second duPont and Peabody, as well as awards from the Scripps Howard Foundation, Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and the American Bar Association. Working with editor Steve Drummond, Sullivan's stories in this series revealed deep and costly flaws in one of the most common – and commonly misunderstood – elements of the US criminal justice system.

Also in 2011, Sullivan was honored for the second time by Investigative Reporters and Editors for her two part series examining the origins of Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070.

For the three-part series, "36 Years of Solitary: Murder, Death and Justice on Angola," she was honored with a 2008 George Foster Peabody Award, a 2008 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and her first Robert F. Kennedy Award.

In 2007, Sullivan exposed the epidemic of rape on Native American reservations, which are committed largely by non-Native men, and examined how tribal and federal authorities have failed to investigate those crimes. In addition to a duPont, this two-part series earned Sullivan a DART Award for outstanding reporting, an Edward R. Murrow and her second Gracie Award from the Alliance for Women in Media.

Her first Gracie was for a three-part series examining of the state of solitary confinement in this country. She was also awarded the 2007 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize for this series.

Before coming to NPR, Sullivan was a Washington correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, where she covered the Justice Department, the FBI and terrorism.

As a student at Northwestern University in 1996, Sullivan worked with two fellow students on a project that ultimately freed four men, including two death-row inmates, who had been wrongfully convicted of an 18-year-old murder on the south side of Chicago. The case led to a review of Illinois' death row and a moratorium on capital punishment in the state, and received several awards.

Outside of her career as a reporter, Sullivan once spent a summer gutting fish in Alaska, and another summer cutting trails outside Yosemite National Park. She says these experiences gave her "a sense of adventure" that comes through in her reporting. Sullivan, who was born and raised in San Francisco, loves traveling the country to report radio stories that "come to life in a way that was never possible in print."

Languages Spoken:

English

Location:

Washington D.C.

Areas of Expertise:

Business & Economy, Health & Science; Climate & Environment; U.S. Politics; Social Issues

Hospitals Serving The Poor Struggled During COVID. Wealthy Hospitals Made Millions.
This past year America's more than 300 safety-net hospitals found themselves on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, which disproportionately affected the communities safety-net hospitals are most likely to serve.
May 18, 2021
54m
3915_healthcare divide
The Healthcare Divide
FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the growing inequities in American healthcare exposed by COVID-19.
May 18, 2021
Big Oil Evaded Regulation And Plastic Pellets Kept Spilling
The oil and plastic industry, which makes plastic pellets, says it has programs in place to prevent any spills. But NPR and FRONTLINE found top officials have known about the problem for decades, even as they successfully fended off regulation that might have kept them in check.
December 22, 2020
Trump Stokes Fear in the Suburbs, but Few Low-Income Families Ever Make It There
In an effort to appeal to suburban voters, President Trump has promised to keep low-income housing out of their neighborhoods. But in the 50 years since the Fair Housing Act was passed, families with low incomes have not flooded the suburbs.
October 28, 2020
54m
plastic wars
Plastic Wars
FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the fight over the future of plastics.
March 31, 2020
Inside The White House's Bitter Fight Over China
President Trump escalated the trade fight with China this week, saying he will steeply increase tariffs on Chinese products this Friday.
May 7, 2019
54m
Trump's Trade War
Trump's Trade War
The inside story of President Trump’s gamble to confront China over trade.
May 7, 2019
Chinese Hacking Steals Billions; U.S. Businesses Turn A Blind Eye
Technology theft and other unfair business practices originating from China are costing the American economy more than $57 billion a year, White House officials believe, and they expect that figure to grow.
April 12, 2019
FEMA Report Acknowledges Failures in Puerto Rico Disaster Response
FEMA acknowledged for the first time it failed to properly prepare for last year’s hurricane season.
July 13, 2018
How FEMA Failed To Help Victims Of Hurricanes in Puerto Rico Recover
NPR's Laura Sullivan reports on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flawed response to Hurricane Maria, and reveals how the agency's shortcomings stymied Puerto Rico's recovery. The story is part of an investigation by FRONTLINE and NPR into the federal response to Hurricane Maria.
May 1, 2018
How Puerto Rico's Debt Created A Perfect Storm Before The Storm
For years, the nation's largest banks made millions off Puerto Rican debt as the island approached financial ruin. Then, with its infrastructure crumbling, a Category 4 hurricane barreled in.
May 1, 2018
54m
U.S. and Puerto Rico flags hang on a damaged church after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Carolina
Blackout in Puerto Rico
FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the humanitarian and economic crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
May 1, 2018