Debbie Elliott

After a stint on Capitol Hill, NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott is back covering her native South.

From a giant sinkhole swallowing up a bayou community in Louisiana to new state restrictions on abortion providers, Elliott keeps track of the region's news. She also reports on cultural treasures such as an historic church in need of preservation in Helena, Arkansas; the magical House of Dance and Feathers in New Orleans' lower 9th ward; and the hidden-away Coon Dog Cemetery in north Alabama.

She's looking back at the legacy of landmark civil rights events, and following the legal battles between states and the federal government over immigration enforcement, healthcare, and voting rights.

Her coverage of the BP oil spill has focused on the human impact of the spill, the complex litigation to determine responsibility for the disaster, and how the region is recovering. She launched the series, "The Disappearing Coast," which examines the history and culture of south Louisiana, the state's complicated relationship with the oil and gas industry, and the oil spill's lasting impact on a fragile coastline.

Debbie has reported on the new entrepreneurial boom in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as that city's decades-long struggle with violent crime, and a broken criminal justice system. She's examined the obesity epidemic in Mississippi, and a ground-breaking prisoner meditation program at Alabama's toughest lockup. She's taken NPR listeners on a musical tour of Memphis in a pink Cadillac, and profiled writers and musicians including Aaron Neville, Sandra Boynton, and Trombone Shorty.

Look for Debbie's signature political coverage as well. She's watching vulnerable Congressional seats and tracking southern politicians who have higher political aspirations. She was part of NPR's election team in 2008 and 2112 — reporting live from the floor of the political conventions, following the Presidential campaigns around the country, and giving voice to voters making their choice.

During her tenure in Washington, DC, Debbie covered Congress and hosted NPR's All Things Considered on the weekends. In that role she interviewed a variety of luminaries and world leaders, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She celebrated the 40th Anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant" with Arlo Guthrie, and mixed it up on the rink with the Baltimore's Charm City Roller Girls. She profiled the late historian John Hope Franklin and the children's book author Eric Carle.

Since joining NPR in 1995, Debbie has covered the re-opening of civil-rights-era murder cases, the legal battle over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses, the Elian Gonzales custody dispute from Miami, and a number of major hurricanes, from Andrew to Katrina. Debbie was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida, for election night in 2000, and was one of the first national reporters on the scene for the contentious presidential election contest that followed. She has covered landmark smoker lawsuits, the tobacco settlement with states, the latest trends in youth smoking and electronic cigarettes, and tobacco-control policy and regulation. NPR has sent her to cover a Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics, Bama football fans, and baseball spring training.

Debbie Elliott was born in Atlanta, grew up in the Memphis area, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama College of Communication. She's the former news director of member station WUAL (now Alabama Public Radio).

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5:06pm

Fri April 20, 2012
The Disappearing Coast

Two Years Later, BP Spill Reminders Litter Gulf Coast

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 5:17 pm

Pictured here on April 13, 2011, Barataria Bay — part of Louisiana's Barataria Basin — was one of the hardest hit areas in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Today, obvious signs of the spill have faded, but communities are still reeling from its effects.
Mario Tama Getty Images

It's been two years since the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 rig workers and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The oil has long stopped flowing and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up oiled beaches and waterways, but the disaster isn't necessarily over.

Oil fouled some 1,100 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline, but today, in most spots, you can't see obvious signs of the spill. In Orange Beach, Ala., the clear emerald waters of the Gulf roll onto sugar-white sand beaches.

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2:38am

Tue April 10, 2012
Law

Federal Court To Weigh Graphic Cigarette Labels

Originally published on Tue April 10, 2012 7:09 am

This image provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shows one of nine new warning labels it wants cigarette makers to use. Tobacco companies have sued, claiming the mandate is unconstitutional.
AP

The question of how far the government can go in forcing a business — in this case cigarette makers — to warn consumers about its product is before a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration wants large, graphic warning labels to scare smokers, but tobacco companies say that violates their right to free speech.

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3:00am

Mon March 12, 2012
Around the Nation

BP Settlement Lacks Enthusiasm Along Gulf Coast

Residents of the Gulf Coast are warily evaluating the BP settlement deal in the Deepwater Horizon case. Some were hurt during clean-up of the oil spill, others lost their businesses and still others lost family in the rig explosion. But they are coming to different conclusions about whether the deal is a good one.

5:20am

Sun March 11, 2012
Mitt Romney

To Woo South, Romney Needs More Than A Twang

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 12:29 pm

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Miss., on Friday. The former Massachusetts governor has skeptics in the Deep South.
Rogelio Solis AP

Mitt Romney picked up some support in Saturday's contests, but there may be trouble lurking for him in the near future as the GOP race moves to the Deep South.

Despite his second-place finish in Kansas, Romney scored victories Saturday in caucuses in Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He also won county conventions in Wyoming.

Tuesday's primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi, and the reddest of states are proving to be a tough sell for the former Massachusetts governor. He's trying his best to connect with the Republican base.

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3:24pm

Sat March 3, 2012
Around the Nation

Settlement Only The First Step In BP's Legal Woes

Originally published on Sat March 3, 2012 4:09 pm

A cross with the words "Promises Made"-- referring to statements from BP and government officials — stands in front of a pile of crosses symbolizing things that were impacted by the spill, in a front yard in Grand Isle, La.
Patrick Semansky AP

Oil giant BP has agreed to settle thousands of lawsuits stemming from its well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal was announced late Friday and prompted a federal judge in New Orleans to postpone a Monday trial, but the proposed settlement solves only one piece of BP's legal exposure from the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

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3:00am

Thu March 1, 2012
Law

Georgia, Ala. Immigration Laws Challenged In Court

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 11:18 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Federal courts are nearing final judgment on some of the nation's toughest immigration laws.

Next month, the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the law in Arizona. Laws in two other states are now before a federal appeals court in Atlanta, as NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

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11:01pm

Wed February 15, 2012
Around the Nation

BP's Oil Slick Set To Spill Into Courtroom

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 9:53 am

Docks on the Bon Secour River sit idle nearly two years after the BP oil spill. The small fishing village of Bon Secour, Ala., is still suffering the lingering effects of the spill, despite government monitoring and assurances that Gulf seafood is not contaminated.
Debbie Elliott NPR

A federal court in New Orleans is preparing for one of the largest and most complex environmental lawsuits ever to come to court. It stems from the worst oil disaster in U.S. history: the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig nearly two years ago and the resulting oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.

Testimony is scheduled to begin at the end of the month. The case combines more than 500 lawsuits in one proceeding designed to determine who's responsible for what went wrong.

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11:01pm

Mon January 16, 2012
Newt Gingrich

Newt's 'Food Stamp President': Racial Or Just Politics?

All of the Republican presidential hopefuls take on President Obama in their stump speeches, attacking his health care plan, his jobs record and more.

But the shorthand former House Speaker Newt Gingrich uses, calling the nation's first black president the "food stamp president," is raising questions.

It's a theme Gingrich has used since Iowa, and he returned to it during a forum in Charleston, S.C., over the weekend.

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6:16am

Sun January 15, 2012
Around the Nation

America's Heartland Awaits Its Candidate

There's talk of reviving the shuttered paper mill in Brownstown, Ind. But for now, most rural residents have to travel bigger cities for work.
Debbie Elliott NPR

In this election year, an emerging theme coming from voters around the country is frustration with the tone of politics today. NPR's Debbie Elliott set out to revisit Brownstown, Ind., where she first talked with voters during the 1998 congressional elections, another acrimonious time.

Fourteen years ago, Anne Clodfelter was directing the Jackson County Homemakers Extension Chorus as they prepared for an upcoming concert.

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11:01pm

Wed December 28, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

In Katrina's Wake, New Orleans Enjoys Start-Up Boom

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 1:59 pm

Sudhir Sinha's company, InnoGenomics, is one of hundreds of startups that call New Orleans home.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a series

New Orleans has long been known as one of America's hardest luck cities, struggling over the years with poverty, crime, corruption and tragic disaster. But the city's darkest days have sparked a surprising new entrepreneurial spirit.

Residents Billy Bosch and Matt Mouras, for example, are trying to launch a nutritional beverage company and are getting a leg up from Idea Village, a nonprofit that helps nurture the city's entrepreneurs.

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5:12am

Sat December 24, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

In Camden, S.C., A Family's Generations Talk Race

Originally published on Sat December 24, 2011 11:07 pm

Sisters Ernestyne James Adams (right) and Althea James Truitt are concerned about the economy and today's political climate.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a series

With the 2012 presidential election on the horizon, NPR's Debbie Elliott heads to Camden, S.C., to hear from the close-knit Gaither-James family. Like other African-Americans — considered the political base for President Obama — they're concerned about the economy and today's political climate.

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9:16am

Wed November 23, 2011
Law

The Newest Magazine Fad: The Mug-Shot Tabloid

Each week, Little Rock, Ark., residents snap up some 7,000 copies of The Slammer.
Dave Anderson

A new kind of tabloid is popping up in convenience stores around the country. The papers are nothing more than a compendium of mug shots letting readers keep up with who's been arrested every week.

With titles like Cellmates, Jailbirds, Just Busted, Jail House Rocs and The Slammer, it's clear what you'll find inside.

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11:01pm

Mon November 21, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

Economy Mutes A Longtime Louisville Record Shop

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 8:02 am

Timmons browses the racks of his now-closed business. The record store will have a final clearance sale on Nov. 29.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a monthlong series

In Louisville, Ky., local businessman John Timmons is trying to figure out what's next after selling music for more than a quarter of a century.

Timmons owned ear X-tacy records for 26 years here. The shop closed at the end of October. On a recent visit, dead roses, farewell notes and other mementos are taped to the glass doors. Fans of the shop have also been slipping notes of support under the door.

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4:00am

Wed November 9, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

Alabama's 'Rocket City' Hopes For Another Boom

Originally published on Fri November 11, 2011 7:40 am

In 1962, President John Kennedy (center) and Vice President Lyndon Johnson visited Dr. Wernher von Braun (left), who designed the Saturn rocket in Huntsville, Ala.
AP

Part of a monthlong series

Driving into Huntsville, Ala., it's clear what this city is all about: A giant Saturn V rocket looms ahead in the skyline. This is the city that made the Saturn rockets that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

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11:45am

Mon October 31, 2011
Hard Times: A Journey Across America

Miss. Couple Lament Loss Of The American Dream

Originally published on Tue November 1, 2011 4:31 pm

Norris and Janis Galatas at their home in Collinsville, Miss., with their horse, Cinnamon. The couple is struggling to make their mortgage payments.

Debbie Elliott NPR

Part of a monthlong series

The plan for Norris and Janis Galatas was that they would be settled and comfortable at middle age — paying off their bills and putting away something for the future. But now the wounded warrior and his wife are rethinking the American dream.

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