Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's Washington Desk, where she covers poverty and philanthropy. She's produced stories on homelessness, hunger, and the impact of the recession on the nation's less fortunate. She's also reported on non-profit groups, how they're trying to address poverty and other social issues, and how they've been affected by the economic downturn. Previously, she reported primarily on homeland security, including security at U.S. ports, airlines, and borders. She has also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 Commission investigation, and such issues as Social Security and election reform. Pam was also one of NPR's White House reporters during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before becoming a correspondent, Fessler was the acting senior editor on the Washington Desk and oversaw the network's coverage of the impeachment of President Clinton and the 1998 mid-term elections. She was NPR's chief election editor in 1996, and coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections.

At NPR, Fessler has also been deputy Washington editor and midwest National Desk editor. Before coming to NPR in 1993, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked at CQ for 13 years as both a reporter and editor, covering tax, budget, and other news. She also worked as a budget specialist at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget during the Carter Administration, and was a reporter at The Record newspaper in Hackensack, NJ.

Fessler has a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from Douglass College in New Jersey.



Wed September 7, 2011
Around the Nation

USDA: Food Aid Kept Hunger Rate Down

Originally published on Thu September 8, 2011 4:17 am

A sign in a New York City market window advertises the acceptance of food stamps.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Despite the bad economy, the number of Americans who struggled to get enough to eat did not grow last year, and in some cases declined, according to new government data. Still, a near-record number — almost 49 million people — were affected.

Federal officials say an increase in government food aid kept the numbers from going even higher.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

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Fri September 2, 2011

End Of An Era: A Telethon Without Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis, shown here in July, was dropped from the MDA Labor Day Telethon for reasons that are still unclear.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

For decades, Labor Day weekend has meant the Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy. But this year, for the first time in 46 years, Jerry Lewis won't be on the show. The 85-year-old comedian has been dropped from the program for reasons that are still unclear.

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Thu September 1, 2011
The Two-Way

Jerry Lewis Will Not Participate In MDA Telethon, Says Publicist

Originally published on Thu September 1, 2011 1:55 pm

Jerry Lewis speaks during "The Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" panel at Television Critics Association Tour in Beverly Hills.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Jerry Lewis will not participate in any way — live or pre-recorded — in this Sunday's telethon for muscular dystrophy. That's the final word, says the comedian's publicist, Candi Cazau. She says she spoke with Lewis last night and he dispelled rumors that he might record a song today that would air as part of the show.

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Fri August 19, 2011

In Hard Times, Welfare Cases Drop In Some States

Monday marks 15 years since President Clinton signed an overhaul of the nation's welfare system into law. The president said the measure wasn't perfect, but provided a historic opportunity to fix a system that didn't work.

"Today we are ending welfare as we know it," he said in a Rose Garden ceremony on Aug. 22, 1996. "But I hope this day will be remembered not for what it ended, but for what it began."

What it was supposed to begin was a program that would get the poor into the workforce and end their dependence on public aid.

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Tue July 26, 2011
Around the Nation

Study Shows Racial Wealth Gap Grows Wider

There's long been a big gap between the wealth of white families and the wealth of African-Americans and Hispanics. But the Great Recession has made it much worse — the divide is almost twice what it used to be.

That's according to a new study by the Pew Research Center, which says that the decline in the housing market is the main cause.

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Mon July 18, 2011

The Politics Behind New Voter ID Laws

A voter casts a ballot in a Democratic primary on July 12, 2011 in Wisconsin, one of seven states to enact voter ID laws this year.

Voters going to the polls next year — and even some this year — will encounter lots of new rules. Photo ID requirements and fewer options for early voting are among the biggest changes.

They're part of a wave of new laws enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures this year. Supporters say the rules are needed to ensure honest elections.

But Democrats say it's part of a concerted GOP campaign to suppress the vote. They say minorities, students, the poor and disabled — those most likely to vote Democratic — will be hurt the most.

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Thu June 30, 2011
Around the Nation

Ex-Homeless Speak Out To Change Perceptions

John Harrison (right) says his homelessness is in "remission."
Pam Fessler NPR

The typical speakers bureau can get a celebrity, a politician or a media pundit to address your group for a few thousand, or maybe tens of thousands of dollars. But one speakers bureau made up of men and women who have been homeless will provide someone for only $40.

And the speech could be just as compelling as one given by high-priced talent.

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Sat June 25, 2011

Food Bank Shortages Lead To Innovation

Robert Laws collects supplies from the Tennessee food bank's mobile pantry.
Pam Fessler

Food banks around the country are trying to keep their shelves stocked as more people in the U.S. struggle to get enough to eat. Increasingly, that means finding new ways to salvage food that would otherwise go to waste.

One innovation is being tested at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee. In a back room at the food bank's warehouse in Gray, Tenn., dented and crushed cans containing everything from green beans to beets are piled high on a counter.

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Thu June 23, 2011
Around the Nation

A Squash's Journey: From The Shelf To The Hungry

Walmart store manager Emily Bowman notices some yellow squash with brown spots — and takes about 40 off the shelves and puts them on a donation cart.
Pam Fessler NPR

Americans waste an estimated 150 billion pounds of food a year. A lot of it comes from grocery stores and other retailers.

Food banks increasingly are trying to get their hands on some of that food to help feed the hungry.

The big challenge is time. It's a race to get the groceries off the shelves, and into the mouths of those who need it before it spoils.

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Sun June 19, 2011

Diaries Reveal One 'Swelegant' Dad

Despite trying to get a start on life during the Great Depression, Robert Fessler was eager, passionate and full of hope.
Courtesy of Pam Fessler

I recently looked through diaries that my father wrote as a young man in New York in the 1930s, trying to get his start in life during the Great Depression.

The man in the diaries is not the man I knew: a middle-aged father of four who commuted from the New Jersey suburbs to a job he detested in Manhattan. Instead, the 20-something Robert Fessler was eager, passionate, full of hope. He dreamed of traveling around the world, maybe getting a job as a reporter. Just out of high school, he was trying desperately to mold himself into an interesting adult.

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Fri May 6, 2011

Can You Know Where Charity Dollars Go? Not Easily

The controversy over Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson and his charity has donors asking this question: How do I know if my charitable dollars go where I think they're going?

Not easily, answers Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy. He was one of the first to raise red flags about Mortenson's charity, Central Asia Institute (CAI). Last month, CBS' 60 Minutes also questioned how the group spent its funds.

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Mon May 2, 2011
Osama Bin Laden Killed

U.S. Security Tightens, Despite No Specific Threat

On Monday, there were more police officers patrolling the subways in New York City and Washington, D.C., and tighter security at bridges and tunnels around New York City after the death of Osama bin Laden. The Massachusetts State Police had an increased presence at Boston's Logan airport, and at Los Angeles International Airport authorities say they're always on a heightened state of alert.

But Aaron Hanson, at LAX catching a plane to South Korea, said security on Monday was especially visible.

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Sun April 17, 2011
Around the Nation

Ex-Congressman Fasts To Protest Budget Cuts

Former Congressman Tony Hall has joined dozens of religious leaders and thousands of supporters to protest budget cuts that they say will unfairly affect the poor. Hall has been fasting since March 28 and says he'll continue his diet of water and juice at least through Easter. For Hall, how the budget is cut is a moral issue, but House Speaker John Boehner says spending too much and leaving the next generation in debt is also a moral concern.