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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Injured Nurses
4:53 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

At VA Hospitals, Training And Technology Reduce Nurses' Injuries

To safely lift Bernard Valencia out of his hospital bed, Cheri Moore uses a ceiling lift and sling. The VA hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., has safe patient handling technology installed throughout its entire facility.
Annie Tritt for NPR

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 8:46 pm

Bernard Valencia's room in the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., illustrates how hospitals across the country could fight a nationwide epidemic. As soon as you enter the room, you can see one of the main strategies: A hook hangs from a metal track that runs across the ceiling.

This isn't some bizarre way of fighting hospital-acquired infections or preventing the staff from getting needle sticks. The contraption is a ceiling hoist designed to lift and move patients with a motor instead of muscle.

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Injured Nurses
3:51 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Hospital To Nurses: Your Injuries Are Not Our Problem

Terry Cawthorn was a nurse at Mission Hospital for more than 20 years. But after a series of back injuries, mainly from lifting patients, she was fired. Cawthorn took legal action against the hospital and still faces daily struggles as a result of her injury.
Susannah Kay for NPR

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 5:09 pm

The case of Terry Cawthorn and Mission Hospital, in Asheville, N.C., gives a glimpse of how some hospital officials around the country have shrugged off an epidemic.

Cawthorn was a nurse at Mission for more than 20 years. Her supervisor testified under oath that she was "one of my most reliable employees."

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Injured Nurses
4:55 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Even 'Proper' Technique Exposes Nurses' Spines To Dangerous Forces

The screenshot from a simulation video shows the magnitude and distribution of forces NPR correspondent Daniel Zwerdling endured on his spine while re-creating the way nurses lift patients from their beds.
Courtesy of the Spine Research Institute at The Ohio State University

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 5:09 pm

Scientists say nurses like Sunny Vespico are prime examples of what nursing schools and hospitals are doing wrong: They keep teaching nursing employees how to lift and move patients in ways that could inadvertently result in career-ending back injuries.

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NPR News Investigations
4:27 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Hospitals Fail To Protect Nursing Staff From Becoming Patients

The X-ray of Tove Schuster's spine shows the metal cage and four screws her surgeon used to repair a damaged disk in her back.
Daniel Zwerdling NPR

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 5:09 pm

When Tove Schuster raced to help a fellow nurse lift a patient at Crozer-Chester Medical Center near Philadelphia in March 2010, she didn't realize she was about to become a troubling statistic.

While working the overnight shift, she heard an all-too-common cry: "Please, I need help. My patient has fallen on the floor."

The patient was a woman who weighed more than 300 pounds. So Schuster did what nursing schools and hospitals across the country teach: She gathered a few colleagues, and they lifted the patient as a team.

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Mental Health
4:43 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

New Shooting Revives Old Questions About Mental Health In Military

Originally published on Thu April 3, 2014 7:34 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
3:01 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 1:28 pm

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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NPR News Investigations
5:27 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 11:15 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
3:26 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 7:40 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
3:03 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 11:38 am

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All Tech Considered
1:03 pm
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 7:56 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
2:03 pm
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 3:21 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
4:25 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 12:37 pm

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.
3:11 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 6:52 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
6:50 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
1:55 pm
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 8:20 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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