Howard Berkes

Howard Berkes has been NPR's rural affairs correspondent since March 2003 focusing on the politics, economics, and culture of rural America.

Based in Salt Lake City, Berkes reports on stories that are often unique to non-urban communities or provide a rural perspective on major issues and events. In 2005, he was part of the NPR reporting team that covered Hurricane Katrina and in 2010, he reported from West Virginia on the disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine. Berkes’ reporting also includes the impact 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 covered seven Olympic games including the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. He 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 has also been 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. 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.

Reporting by Berkes in 1998 helped transform the Olympic bribery scandal from a local story in Utah into a media firestorm and attracted international attention. His ongoing reporting of Olympic politics and the Olympic Games has made him a resource to other news organizations, including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, MSNBC, A&E's Investigative Reports, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the French magazine L'Express, and many 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 has covered Native American issues, the militia movement, neo-nazi groups, nuclear waste, the Unabomber case, the Montana Freemen standoff, polygamy, western water issues, 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, and the National Association of Science Writers.

Berkes also trains news reporters, consults with radio news departments, and serves as a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Berkes was awarded a Nieman Foundation Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University in 1997.




Wed June 29, 2011
Mine Safety In America

Mine Disaster Probe Finds Intimidation, False Papers

West Virginia State Police direct traffic at the entrance to Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, W.Va., April 5, 2010.

Choosing safety over production was a firing offense at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine, according to a federal investigation of last year's deadly explosion there.

Investigators reported Wednesday on the progress of their ongoing, 15-month-long probe. They provided new documentation of how low-level managers who made safety a priority were intimidated and, in some cases, dismissed.

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Fri June 24, 2011
The Two-Way

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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Tue June 21, 2011
It's All Politics

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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Mon June 20, 2011
The Two-Way

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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Thu June 16, 2011
The Two-Way

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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