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.

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Under The Label: Sustainable Seafood
5:13 pm
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 1:19 pm

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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NPR Story
3:57 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Once Denied A Purple Heart, A Soldier Gets Her Medal

Retired Army Major Michelle Dyarman holds the Purple Heart medal she was awarded after suffering a severe concussion from an IED in Baghdad in 2005.
Robb Hill for NPR

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 9:11 am

In 2010, NPR reported that some Army commanders refused to award the Purple Heart to many troops who got concussions in combat because they didn't consider these "real" injuries. As a result of our story, the Army did its own investigation and put out new guidelines on Purple Hearts. Last week, the Army told NPR that under the new rules, they've finally awarded the medal to almost 1,000 soldiers, including Michelle Dyarman, whom we profiled in our original 2010 reports.

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NPR News Investigations
10:12 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Before Reaching War Zones, Troops Risk Concussions

Staff Sgt. Ronald Sherwood practices a maneuver on Sgt. 1st Class Darwin Scriber at the U.S. Army Combatives School at Fort Benning, Ga. The school trains instructors who will teach recruits hand-to-hand combat. Most of the student instructors have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pouya Dianat for NPR

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:47 pm

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Around the Nation
3:38 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

For One Soldier, Rap Is A Powerful Postwar Weapon

In 2010 US Army veteran Jeff Barillaro returned from Iraq with severe PTSD. Since then Barillaro, whose stage name is "Solider Hard," has been rapping about his struggles and performing for troops, veterans, and military families across the US.
Erik M. Lunsford NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:53 am

When Jeff Barillaro came home from fighting the war in Iraq, he felt lost, like thousands of veterans do. He didn't have a mission anymore.

But now, through music, he's found one: Under the stage name Soldier Hard, Barillaro raps — about how war has changed troops and their families. Other vets and their family members are now turning to his music, because they say he's speaking to them.

On a recent morning, the National Guard Armory in Evansville, Ind., looks and sounds like any military base in the country.

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The Two-Way
4:25 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

One Soldier's Progress Against Traumatic Brain Injury

One of the guests in the congressional gallery at last week's State of the Union address was Roxana Delgado, an advocate for soldiers returning home with traumatic brain injuries. Her husband, an army sergeant who NPR profiled in June, 2010, had been dramatically affected by the concussion he received from a roadside blast in Iraq.

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The Two-Way
11:45 am
Fri January 27, 2012

Pentagon's Spending On Key Injuries Isn't Being Tracked Well, Auditors Say

Originally published on Fri January 27, 2012 11:48 am

The Defense Department has spent close to $3 billion since 2007 to treat and study traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder — the leading injuries suffered by U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a federal investigation finds that the department's programs are so disorganized that it's difficult to figure out how the money has been spent.

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The Salt
3:08 pm
Fri December 30, 2011

A Year That Was Good To Beets

Heirloom beets served at Bibiana Restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C.
JOSEPH SILVERMAN The Washington Times /Landov

Children hate beets. Many adults hate beets. In fact, so few people in the U.S. eat table beets that the federal government doesn't bother to keep track of how many are grown and sold, even though it does keep track of just about every other crop, including turnip greens and horseradish.

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