Daniel Zwerdling

Daniel Zwerdling is a correspondent in NPR's Investigations Unit.

With acclaimed investigative and documentary reports appearing on all of NPR's major news shows, Zwerdling's stories have repeatedly attracted national attention and generated national action. Over the past few years, Zwerdling's series on the domestic impact of the wars has revealed that many military commanders, from the Pentagon to platoons, have neglected and mistreated troops who come home with serious mental health disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder – even kicking them out of the Army. He revealed (in collaboration with T. Christian Miller of ProPublica) that the military failed to diagnose and treat tens of thousands of troops with traumatic brain injuries from explosions. Some of those stories have prompted Congressional investigations of major army bases, Senate hearings and other investigations.

In late 2004, Zwerdling revealed that the Department of Homeland Security had been detaining immigrants in harsh conditions in jails across the United States. The day after Zwerdling reported that guards at one jail were using attack dogs to terrorize non-citizens, the Bush administration banned the use of dogs around detainees. And after he exposed another jail where guards beat detainees while a group of other guards watched, the jail announced that it would discipline almost a dozen employees.

In 1986, Zwerdling and NPR's Howard Berkes broke the story revealing that NASA officials launched the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger despite warnings that it might explode, as it eventually did. Their stories helped shape the course of the federal investigation into the tragedy. Zwerdling's investigative series on the then-best-selling pesticide Chlordane revealed that the chemical was poisoning people and forcing them to abandon their homes. The stories prompted the manufacturer to remove the chemical from the market at the urging of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Zwerdling has won the most prestigious awards in broadcasting, including the DuPont, Peabody, Polk, Edward R. Murrow, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Robert F. Kennedy and DART awards for investigative reporting. He won the Overseas Press Club Foundation award for live coverage of breaking international news, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, the National Press Club Award for consumer reporting, the Ohio State awards for international reporting, the James Beard award for reporting on the food industry, and the Champion-Tuck Award for economic reporting.

From 2002 to 2004, he was NPR's television correspondent on PBS' NOW with Bill Moyers, on PBS. Prior to his television work, Zwerdling was senior host of NPR's Weekend All Things Considered, a post he held from 1993-1999. For more than a decade, Zwerdling covered environmental, health, science, and Third World development issues as an investigative reporter for NPR News. He was based in Nairobi, Kenya for several of those years as he examined nations struggling to develop across Africa and South Asia.

Before joining NPR in 1980, Zwerdling worked as a staff writer at The New Republic and as a freelance reporter. His work appeared in national publications such as The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Review of Books. His groundbreaking articles in the early 1970s, suggesting that the typical American diet contributed to cancer and heart disease, incurred the wrath of the medical and food industry and establishments. When Zwerdling reported that successful commercial farmers in the United States and Europe had stopped using chemicals and were farming organically, the pesticide industry lambasted him, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched an investigation that confirmed his findings.

Zwerdling has served as an adjunct professor of Media Ethics in the communications department at American University in Washington, D.C., and as an associate of the Bard College Institute for Language and Thinking in New York. His book, Workplace Democracy (Harper & Row, 1980), is still used in colleges across the country. He also contributes occasionally to Gourmet.

Mental Health
1:02 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

New Shooting Revives Old Questions About Mental Health In Military

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 4:34 pm

The mass shooting at Fort Hood, the second at the same Army base in just five years, is renewing questions about the state of mental health treatment on U.S. military bases.

Around the Nation
12:01 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Weeks Later, More Questions Than Answers In W.Va. Chemical Spill

Workers inspect an area near storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, W.Va., on Jan. 13. It is still unclear exactly how much of the chemicals leaked into the area's water supply.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 10:28 am

State officials in West Virginia say that in most areas, they can no longer detect any of the industrial chemical MCHM that spilled into the water supply recently. They say the water is safe for people to drink and use — including most pregnant women. But other public health specialists say they don't trust these assurances.

"I think there's no way to know what the safe levels of the chemicals are at this point," says Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the state's largest public health department. He's in charge of protecting 250,000 people whose water was affected by the spill.

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Soldier Suicides
2:27 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Army Takes On Its Own Toxic Leaders

NPR interviewed dozens of current or former soldiers who said they have struggled under toxic leaders.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 8:15 am

Top commanders in the U.S. Army have announced publicly that they have a problem: They have too many "toxic leaders" — the kind of bosses who make their employees miserable. Many corporations share a similar problem, but in the Army's case, destructive leadership can potentially have life or death consequences. So, some Army researchers are wondering if toxic officers have contributed to soldiers' mental health problems.

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The Salt
12:26 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

A Judge's Cookbook Reveals The Secrets Of Bialys And Bagels

Judge Michael Zusman's bialys are topped with roasted onions, poppy seeds and coarse salt.
Daniel Zwerdling NPR

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 4:40 pm

There are two important things that you learn about Michael Zusman, baker and co-author of The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home, when you bake with him.

First, his real job has nothing to do with bread or writing recipes: He's a trial judge. "Full time," Zusman says. "Wear a black robe every day."

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All Tech Considered
12:58 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Your Digital Trail: Data Fuels Political And Legal Agendas

Private attorneys are easily getting access to defendants' emails and texts. All it takes is a subpoena, which any attorney can do.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri October 4, 2013 8:38 am

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All Tech Considered
10:03 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Your Digital Trail: Does The Fourth Amendment Protect Us?

The Bill of Rights as seen at The National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of National Archives

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 4:56 pm

This is the third story in our four-part series examining your digital trail and who potentially has access to it. It was co-reported by G.W. Schulz from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Yesterday, we examined how data-tracking companies are monitoring your online behavior. Today we look at your Fourth Amendment rights.

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All Tech Considered
11:03 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Your Digital Trail: Private Company Access

Private companies are collecting your personal data.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 12:21 pm

This is the second story in our four-part series examining your digital trail and who potentially has access to it. It was co-reported by G.W. Schulz from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Yesterday, we examined how data can be collected as you go through your everyday life. Today we look at how data-tracking companies are monitoring your online behavior.

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Social Entrepreneurs: Taking On World Problems
1:10 pm
Fri July 5, 2013

At Cambodia Hotel, The Workers Are The Boss

Traffic passes in front of the Soria Moria Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Will Baxter for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 9:37 am

This story is part of NPR's ongoing series about social entrepreneurs — people around the world who are dreaming up innovative ways to develop communities and solve social problems.

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U.S.
12:11 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

After Deadly Chemical Plant Disasters, There's Little Action

The PBF Energy refinery in Paulsboro, N.J., uses toxic chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid. Rather than using "inherently safer" design methods, the industry says, other safety measures are taken to prevent accidents like the one in West, Texas.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 3:52 pm

You might think that everything would have changed for the chemicals industry on April 16, 1947. That was the day of the Texas City Disaster, the worst industrial accident in U.S. history. A ship loaded with ammonium nitrate — the same chemical that appears to have caused the disaster last month in West, Texas — exploded. The ship sparked a chain reaction of blasts at chemical facilities onshore, creating what a newsreel at the time called "a holocaust that baffles description."

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NPR Story
3:50 pm
Sat April 20, 2013

From Family To Digital Footprints: A Portrait Of Tsarnaevs

NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reports on what's known about the two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Social Entrepreneurs: Taking On World Problems
10:55 am
Thu April 4, 2013

New Mortgage Program Helps Cambodia's Poor Find Better Homes

Sriv Keng (right) and her husband, Vet Vong, dish up bowls of rice for customers at her roadside food stall, which is situated in a garment manufacturing district.
Will Baxter for NPR

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 5:20 pm

If you've applied for a mortgage recently, you know how hard it can be. The bank demands all kinds of obscure documents and wants proof of almost every asset you own. But an innovative mortgage program halfway around the world will evaluate your application without any extra documentation — and if you're approved, it will give you a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. There's just one catch: The mortgages are only for low-income people in Cambodia. The program is a throwback to the days when bankers got to know their customers — and trusted them.

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Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood
4:35 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

For A Florida Fishery, 'Sustainable' Success After Complex Process

Dennis Roseman, left, and Jamie Manganello pull in a swordfish off the coast of Florida. The Day Boat Seafood company went through a complicated process to become certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Chip Litherland for NPR

Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 10:19 am

Part three of a three-part series by Daniel Zwerdling and Margot Williams.

The long, clunky-looking fishing boat pulls up to Day Boat Seafood's dock near Fort Pierce, Fla., after 10 days out in the Atlantic. The crew lowers a thick rope into the hold, and begins hoisting 300-pound swordfish off their bed of ice and onto a slippery metal scale.

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Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood
3:42 pm
Mon February 11, 2013

Conditions Allow For More Sustainable-Labeled Seafood

A sockeye salmon that was caught from the research vessel Miss Delta off the coast of Vancouver is examined. The MSC has certified the fish as "sustainable" even though there is concern from scientists and environmentalists.
Brett Beadle for NPR

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 10:24 am

Part two of a three-part series by Daniel Zwerdling and Margot Williams.

Next time you walk up to the seafood counter, look for products labeled with a blue fish, a check mark, and the words "Certified Sustainable Seafood MSC." Then ask yourself, "What does this label mean?"

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Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood
11:38 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Is Sustainable-Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?

Capt. Art Gaeten holds a blue shark that was caught during a research trip in Nova Scotia. Scientists are studying the impact of swordfish fishing methods on the shark population.
Dean Casavechia for NPR

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 10:19 am

Part one of a three-part series by Daniel Zwerdling and Margot Williams.

Rebecca Weel pushes a baby stroller with her 18-month-old up to the seafood case at Whole Foods, near ground zero in New York. As she peers at shiny fillets of salmon, halibut and Chilean sea bass labeled "certified sustainable," Weel believes that if she purchases this seafood, she will help protect the world's oceans from overfishing.

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