John Burnett
Steve Barrett/N/A

John Burnett

Southwest Correspondent, National Desk

As a roving NPR correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett's beat stretches across the U.S., and, sometimes, around the world. Currently, he is serving as Southwest Correspondent for the National Desk.

In December 2012, he returned from a five-month posting in Nairobi as the East Africa Correspondent. Normally, he focuses on the issues and people of the Southwest United States, providing investigative reports and traveling the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. His special reporting projects have included New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, and many reports on the Drug War in the Americas. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition.

Burnett has reported from more than 30 different countries since 1986. His 2008 four-part series "Dirty Money," which examined how law enforcement agencies have gotten hooked on and, in some cases, corrupted by seized drug money, won three national awards: a Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for Investigative Reporting, a Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting and an Edward R. Murrow Award for the accompanying website. His 2007 three-part series "The Forgotten War," which took a critical look at the nation's 30-year war on drugs, won a Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems.

In 2006, Burnett's Uncivilized Beasts & Shameless Hellions: Travels with an NPR Correspondent was published by Rodale Press. In that year, he also served as a 2006 Ethics Fellow at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

In 2004, Burnett won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for investigative reporting for his story on the accidental U.S. bombing of an Iraqi village. In 2003, he was an embedded reporter with the First Marine Division during the invasion of Iraq. His work was singled out by judges for the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award honoring the network's overall coverage of the Iraq War. Also in 2003, Burnett won a first place National Headliner Award for investigative reporting about corruption among federal immigration agents on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the months following the attacks of Sept. 11, Burnett reported from New York City, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His reporting contributed to coverage that won the Overseas Press Club Award and an Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Award.

In 2001, Burnett reported and produced a one-hour documentary, "The Oil Century," for KUT-FM in Austin, which won a silver prize at the New York Festivals. He was a visiting faculty member in broadcast journalism at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in 2002 and 1997. He received a Ford Foundation Grant in 1997 for a special series on sustainable development in Latin America.

Burnett's favorite stories are those that reveal a hidden reality. He recalls happening upon Carlos Garcia, a Mexico City street musician who plays a musical leaf, a chance encounter that brought a rare and beautiful art form to a national audience. In reporting his series "Fraud Down on the Farm," Burnett spent nine months investigating the abuse of the United States crop insurance system and shining light on surprising stories of criminality.

Abroad, his report on the accidental U.S. Air Force bombing of the Iraqi village of Al-Taniya, an event that claimed 31 lives, helped listeners understand the fog of war. His "Cocaine Republics" series detailed the emergence of Central America as a major drug smuggling region. But listeners may say that one of his best remembered reports is an audio postcard he filed while on assignment in Peshawar, Pakistan, about being at six-foot-seven the "tallest American at a Death to America" rally.

Prior to coming to NPR, Burnett was based in Guatemala City for United Press International covering the Central America civil wars. From 1979-1983, he was a general assignment reporter for various Texas newspapers.

Burnett graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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The West Kensington Ministry church in Philadelphia, seen here in 2014, is one of about a dozen churches offering sanctuary to Central American immigrants who are under deportation orders. Matt Rourke/AP hide caption

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Epic, founded in Austin, Texas, makes organic meat bars filled with nuts and dried fruit. It's a rising star in the beef jerky market and was recently acquired by General Mills. Courtesy of Epic hide caption

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Open-carry supporters attend a rally earlier this month in Austin, Texas. Erich Schlegel/Getty Images hide caption

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Hilda Ramirez and her son, Ivan, are staying at a shelter home in Austin. They fear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will come and arrest them any minute. John Burnett/NPR hide caption

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Harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy found that by blowing a little too hard into his instrument, he could conjure notes it was never made to play. "And it freaked me out, I have to tell you," he says. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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A pedestrian walks along the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street in April 2014. Of the 160 companies near the explosions that submitted claims for property damage or business losses, nearly 14 percent had coverage for terrorism. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon comforts dispatcher Michelle Rodriguez during a news conference with the first responders who talked about their experiences in last week's terrorist attack. Jae C. Hong/AP hide caption

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Nearly 1,000 protesters gather in January across the street from the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, where a Muslim conference against hate and terrorism was scheduled to be held. Tony Gutierrez/AP hide caption

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The remains of St. Maria Goretti lie near the altar during Mass at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago on Oct. 12. It was one of 54 churches where her body was exhibited during a U.S. tour. Antonio Perez/TNS/Landov hide caption

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