Karen Brown


Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for New England Public Radio since 1998. Her features and documentaries have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, Third Coast Audio Festival Award, and the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.

Karen’s work has appeared on NPR, in The New York Times, and other outlets. She previously worked as a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She earned a Masters of Journalism from the University of California at Berkeley in 1996.

She lives with her husband Sean in Northampton, Massachusetts, where they are occasionally visited by their college-aged children.

Vaccination for COVID-19 takes place at the Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com

Western Massachusetts legislators are urging patience for those newly-eligible for the vaccine — but they're also frustrated at the state's glitchy rollout.

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Baystate Medical Center.
Baystate Health / MassLive / MassLive.com

A coalition of health and community leaders wants Massachusetts to get more vaccines to people of color.

A witness to a 2016 shooting in Springfield, Massachusetts, looks through photos. NEPM has obscured her face.
Screen shot / Police video

Advocates for the wrongly convicted often say they’d much rather prevent mistakes than fix them after years of incarceration. But how to do that is up for debate.


Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack says the isolation of learning remotely is causing serious psychological stress on children.

Newly released from prison in April 2020, James Watson is flanked by his lawyers, Madeline Weaver Blanchette (left) and Barb Munro.
Courtesy / Barb Munro

In 2011, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court put together a task force of people from all over the criminal justice community.

They studied how eyewitness evidence is used in the courtroom and offered science-based recommendations going forward.

But it left many people who were convicted before the report still in prison.

Witness Gregory Danas (center), a ballistics expert, answers questions from attorney Myles Jacobson (right) during a hearing for Phillip Ayala in Hampden Superior Court in 2015.
Mark M. Murray / The Republican / masslive.com

Scientists have long claimed that eyewitness testimony can be both highly convincing and incredibly unreliable.

Students are allowed to go to the COVID-19 testing site at UMass Amherst's Mullins Center, but the university is warning of possible sanctions for those who continue working off-campus jobs.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com

As UMass Amherst tries to beat back a major COVID-19 outbreak, some students are frustrated by at least one new restriction.

Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield NAACP.
Douglas Hook / Masslive / masslive.com

Advocates for police reform in Springfield, Massachusetts, say it's time for the federal government to force the police department to be accountable for its actions.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin.
Steph Solis / Masslive / Masslive.com

The Massachusetts secretary of state said he's concerned the Trump administration has sabotaged the census for political reasons.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signs the paid family leave law in 2018.
File Photo / MassLive / MassLive.com/photos

Starting in January, Massachusetts workers are eligible to take paid time off to bond with a new child or to recover from a long illness.

An architect's rendering of the proposed biomass plant in Springfield, Massachusetts.
File / MassLive / MassLive.com/photos

Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators have asked the state to put a stop to a biomass plant in Springfield, at least until the incoming Biden Administration weighs in on the issue.

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at Baystate Medical Center.
Baystate Health / MassLive / MassLive.com

Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts, announced it has used up all of its initial COVID-19 vaccine doses — with a number of people turning down their turn.

Mark Schand and his wife Mia at their Windsor, Connecticut, home.
Karen Brown / NEPM

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts, will pay $6.5 million to a man wrongfully incarcerated for almost three decades.

In this file photo, Tapestry Health employees provide free COVID-19 testing in Springfield and Agawam, Massachusetts.
Douglas Hook / MassLive / MassLive.com/photos

State legislators in western Massachusetts are turning up the pressure for more COVID-19 testing, but they don’t all necessarily agree on how that should be done.

The Bridge of Names, in Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, after storm damage.
Karen Brown / NEPM

A walking bridge in western Massachusetts was badly damaged in an autumn storm, but the town doesn’t own the land under it. So residents have banded together to take on the project — for its practical and historical value.

RN Alyssa Anderson administers a COVID-19 test at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford in March 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

With virus rates rising across the state and the holidays looming, western Massachusetts residents who want to get a COVID test are often waiting in hours-long lines, if they can get one at all.

James Watson, who was freed from prison after 41 years.
Courtesy / Barb Munro

A Massachusetts man imprisoned for four decades on murder charges is free, now that a judge granted him a new trial and the district attorney dropped all charges. 

Roy Saigo is interim president at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com

Westfield State University has spent years in leadership crises.

The elf display at the 2019 Bright Nights at Forest Park event, one of the projects that traditionally uses inmate labor.
Hoang (Leon) Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department said it may pause its practice of lending out inmates for community labor if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield NAACP.
Douglas Hook / MassLive

Two community groups in Springfield, Massachusetts, are renewing calls for the mayor to fire the city police commissioner, following a scathing federal report last summer. 

Thomas Rosa - at his arrest in 1985 and after his release in 2020.
Courtesy / New England Innocence Project

A Massachusetts man who spent 34 years in prison for murder has been sent home while his lawyers fight for his exoneration.

Foreclosure sign.
Niall Kennedy / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/35034351734@N01

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has proposed a $171 million plan to help people stay in their homes after the state’s eviction ban expires on Saturday.

Town Hall in Amherst, Massachusetts.
John Phelan / Creative Commons / commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Faolin42

With Amherst, Massachusetts, in the state’s COVID-19 red zone, the town manager says the numbers don’t reflect nuances in the population. 

COVID-19 testing at the Mullins Center at UMass Amherst.
Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

UMass Amherst will likely do considerably more COVID-19 testing of students and staff than originally announced — at a considerable cost.

Dana Nestor and Nina Fernandes at their new Northampton, Massachusetts, house.
Karen Brown / NEPR

Home buying and selling slowed down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but realtors in western Massachusetts say the market has picked up. 

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Springfield, Massachusetts, officials say they've been making changes in the police department in response to a scathing report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

From "How To Be A Person" by Catherine Newman.
Karen Brown / NEPM

"How to Be A Person" takes readers through dozens of basic skills they should learn before they’re grown up – from doing the laundry and tying knots, to writing thank-you notes and managing money. 

School buses lined up.
Chris Devers / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/cdevers

A new study finds that Black girls in Massachusetts public schools are disciplined at a much higher rate than white girls — about four times as often.

Ann Becker of UMass gives direction on how to administer a COVID-19 test at the Mullins Center.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Carly O'Connell is excited to go back to UMass as a sophomore in legal studies. She'll be among about a thousand students allowed to live on campus — some are taking hands-on classes, and others, like O’Connell, got special permission for personal reasons.

In this photo from March 2020, Hampshire County Sheriff Patrick Cahillane talked about measures to reduce exposure to the new coronavirus at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com/photos

The Hampshire County jail hasn’t reported any covid-19 cases since May, but the sheriff said he’s concerned about possible new cases when normal court activity resumes.